A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend who is going through some health issues. She told me she had a followup doctor’s appointment in a few days to get back some results. “I should have gone in for these tests awhile ago,” she admitted. “But I was afraid of what I might find.”
I told her I could relate. As someone living with cerebral palsy (CP), I have often chosen the “ignorance is bliss” path. There have been times I’ve wanted to Google, life expectancy cerebral palsy or aging effects of cerebral palsy. But every time I start to do it I am hit by a wave of fear.
I’ve always known that I need to take extra care of myself because of my disability. As a child, I had speech, physical, and occupational therapy several times a week. When I turned 18, I joined a gym and started working out with a personal trainer.
A few years ago, I added martial arts into the mix to help with flexibility and balance. Swimming is also an excellent exercise for me, and I’m lucky enough to live in Florida, where I can do that often.
I’m 36 years old now, and I lead a pretty active life. For the most part, I feel good. But every now and then, I get an ache in the back or neck. I become a little slower or more off-balance in my walking.
I can usually get some relief by doing some stretches or visiting my local chiropractor. But during these times, I can’t help but wonder, “Is the cerebral palsy coming for me?”
Everybody’s Body Is Decaying
Entropy is a part of life. Every body is fighting the effects of time. We all do what we can to slow down the aging process. But with a person with CP, you put a lot of wear and tear on the body early in life. I sometimes wonder what my body will be like when I turn 50.
I have done some research on what aging with CP is like. It seems the biggest concern is lung capacity. The lungs are the first thing to weaken. That’s scary because it’s kind of important to breathe!
Because of this, I make it a point to work out my lungs. I’ve learned some breathing techniques from martial arts that I try to do daily (but inevitably skip days). This is also where swimming really is beneficial.
I sometimes wonder if I should do more research on what aging looks like. The problem is that CP has such a broad spectrum. I would say my CP “symptoms” (if you can call them that) fall somewhere in the middle.
I’ve seen people who have a higher severity of CP than me. I’ve also known people whose CP is much milder than mine, and can even drive cars and hold babies. (You don’t want me doing either!)
At the very least, I think it’d be a good idea to join some kind of CP support group. I’ve never been a part of one, and I don’t even know if there are any near me. But it would be interesting to meet people with CP who are older than me, to see what lies ahead.
Yes, that would mean facing some fears. It may mean hearing some things I’d rather not hear. But it might help prepare me for the future.
And I may be able to encourage those younger than me. Maybe pass on my experiences and give them some hope that the future isn’t always something to fear.
Living Between Fear and Hope
At the end of the day, I think living somewhere between fear and hope is a good place to be. I need to have enough fear to plan for the future wisely. I need to have enough hope to step into that future, whatever awaits me.
And above all, I need to have gratitude for life, because no one is promised beyond today.
I have a wonderful family, a loving wife, and great friends.
Whatever CP has in store for me, I won’t have to face it alone.