Many people may not know this, but I was diagnosed with a pain management disorder called RND (now known as CRPS) when I was 8-years-old. That experience left me with the inability to walk due to excruciating pain located in my feet and lower limbs. It was a defining moment in my life because it was a really scary and painful time.
My life seemed to change overnight. I was a happy and physically-active little girl one day, and the next day I was in a wheelchair. I could not walk due to the pain and I did not know if I was ever going to walk again or go back to my regular life.
It was scary because people did not understand the high level of pain I was experiencing; on the outside I looked completely normal, but inside my body felt like it was at war with itself. I could not go to school and ended up in the hospital and eventually, an inpatient rehab center where I had to learn how to do simple things all over again — like run, walk, skip and jump.
Things I used to take for granted were huge milestones. I did not know if I would ever dance again but sadly, I knew I was going to miss summer Nationals with my dance competition team. I spent my birthday in the Children’s Institute where I completed physical therapy daily for two weeks before going home and continuing physical therapy as an outpatient for several months.
While everyone else was learning how to do turns and new techniques, I had to relearn basic steps…but I pushed myself to get better. I wanted to be able to compete with my team and I knew that I needed to work twice as hard to get back to that elite level. What was so critical about this summer was that a year later we would be preparing for the greatest adventure of our lives with the start of “Dance Moms.”
It is really frustrating that for many years I battled the misinformed label as the “weak dancer” given to me by my teacher and others. But I know that is not true; I am a survivor and I am brave. I pushed myself through the pain, and I have achieved great success despite the odds.
My message is to continue to inspire others even when you feel like giving up on your hopes and dreams. Do not get discouraged or believe the negative things people say about you. Do not doubt your ability to achieve your goals. My family did not give up on me and that made all the difference. I also want to urge people to not pass judgement on others. You never know someone else’s journey and what it took for them to get where they are.
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