I walk with a pronounced limp. I have limited use of my arms. I tire easily. But those aren’t the worst of my problems.
The real struggle? I don’t like asking for help.
Asking for help makes me feel weak. Vulnerable. Needy.
My Journey of Independence
I have always wanted to be self-sufficient. And I worked hard at it. I contracted polio as an infant in India and was left a quadriplegic after my high fever subsided. But after several surgeries I was able to walk and, after 21 operations, became fairly independent. In high school, I knew my limitations and organized my life around them.
Going away to college was another major hurdle, and I wondered how I would survive. To everyone’s surprise, I learned to adapt, and by the time I graduated, I had figured out how to manage on my own. After a few years I got married and then had children, grateful the hardest part of my disability seemed behind me.
I was a typical stay-at-home mom, busy caring for my children. I also enjoyed painting, scrapbooking, and making jewelry—basically anything I could create with my hands. I started selling my jewelry at a local store, but soon afterward I developed an agonizing pain in my right arm. I went to the doctor and, after several months, was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome. My arms would never recover. The doctors said I needed to reduce the strain on them. Immediately. Radically. Permanently.
I was told post-polio was a degenerative condition that results in escalating weakness and pain. My energy was like a fixed sum of money in a bank—I could make withdrawals but not deposits. So every time I used that arm, I was losing future strength. From now on, my energy could not be spent on short-term hobbies when I needed to focus on being able to feed myself long-term. Now my arms could only be used for the bare essentials.
This diagnosis blindsided me, turning my comfortable life upside down. I was a 37-year-old wife and mother with two young children to raise. It was unthinkable I could one day, maybe soon, be in a wheelchair full time, unable to care for myself. How could God do this to me? I wept. How could I handle these new obstacles?
I stopped scrapbooking and boxed up my room full of supplies. I gave up painting and making jewelry and canceled my subscriptions to cooking magazines. I made simple meals and entertained less. While all of these losses were difficult, losing my independence was the most excruciating. I constantly had to ask for help doing everyday tasks—things I longed to do for myself.