Able-Minded in a Disabled Body: The Dream to Walk

Growing  into my teen age years with cerebral palsy was hard. I was stuck in a damn wheelchair, and I couldn’t have conversations like everybody else because I was so hard for most people to understand.

My family could understand me, and they always knew what I wanted. But I always wished that I could talk better and that I could walk. I would see the kids at school just running and playing, and it would make me want to cry.

As crazy as it sounds, I wanted to be that girl who got skinned up from falling off a new bike. I just wanted to experience all the normal things that happen to other kids.

I can still remember sitting on my bed and crying my eyes out over it. I had really long hair at that time, and I was literally bent over like a little old lady, and I was a complete mess. I hated every inch of my body, and I couldn’t understand why God had created me like this.

I depended on my mom or whoever was watching me to help me with every need that I had, and I really hated that. I remember that my parents would tell me that I had  cerebral palsy, and so I couldn’t do things without help. I was so angry because I didn’t know how to just live and be a kid. For years, I didn’t want to live with cerebral palsy, and I remember thinking that my family would be better off without me.

As I write this, it is painful for me to admit that I wanted to die back then.

I was 12 when my way of thinking about myself changed, and in a big way. I wanted to learn how to take care of myself, and I was starting to get excited about being more independent.

My mom had found a good physical therapist who was willing to work with me. I was starting to feel like there was a reason why I was put on Earth, and I was starting to see my cerebral palsy in a different light.

I was a big kid by then, but my therapist knew that she could make me look, as well as feel, a little better. I had to do a lot of stretches, and I needed to be fitted for a pair of braces before I could learn how to walk. The stretches that my therapist would do to me would hurt like hell, and I would just cry, but I knew that it was for my own good, and I would let her do it.

My mom also found me a program where I could go out and ride horses for a few hours a week. I loved the feeling of being on a horse because I wasn’t confined to a wheelchair or anything of that nature, and I felt just as free as a bird. Within in a year or two of having the therapy that I ready needed, I was in a walker and I was learning how to walk.

It is so hard to describe the wonderful feeling of being on my feet for the first time. It just felt like some chains were being pulled off me and I was free to move my body any way I wanted. I was able to walk holding onto my cousin’s arm to get my middle school diploma. I was thrilled to be able to get up and walk to the stage. For that moment, I felt like a normal kid.

For a long time, I worked very hard at walking, but my body was so twisted that the pain to my back and hips from walking was unbearable. So I stopped trying to walk.

Melinda Curtis and Geff Kaiser describe each other as best friends. Photo by anewscafe.com intern Sophia Miller.

Eventually I realized it was better for me and my body to just accept getting around in a wheelchair.  Now, sometimes, especially at home, I can crawl when it’s faster or easier, or to get around places where my wheelchair doesn’t fit.

Melinda mops up a puddle. Photo by anewscafe.com intern Sophia Miller.

Somebody once  asked me if I would like to change bodies with an able-bodied person. The answer is “no”, because I love being the woman I am, whether I can walk or not.

I have worked hard to get where I am today. One of my goals is to teach able-bodied people that we all have so much in common; we just have different life challenges.

Melinda Kaiser-Curtis lives in Anderson with her husband, Geff, and the couple’s three dogs. She enjoys music, writing, reading, swimming, working on the computer, shopping and watching movies.

Melinda Kaiser-Curtis

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