I HATE stereotypes and preconceived notions. Everyday, I have to deal with these things as both a brain tumor survivor and a person with physical impairments. I thought my professional background as a Doctor of Physical Therapy would prepare me for this, but I still found things very frustrating. I’ve experienced first hand that there is still a stigma associated with people with disabilities. Early in my recovery, I was confined to a wheel chair and had to rely on people pushing me around if I wanted to go ANYWHERE. It used to drive me CRAZY when I was in my wheelchair and people assumed that I couldn’t understand them. People would talk directly to whom ever was pushing my wheelchair, completely ignoring me sitting right in front of them! I became a “second-class person.” As a “free spirit” and social creature, that drove me nuts! I was also reduced to an “elementary school kid” since I couldn’t go anywhere unless somebody was willing to take me. I felt like I was in an adult sized “stroller” whenever I was in the wheelchair. I realized that once a patient in outpatient rehab goes home after their physical therapy appointment… those impairments are STILL THERE and go home with the patient as well! It was easy ending the day as a physical therapist. I would finish up my paperwork and leave my “work mindset” at work. Taking my post-surgery impairments home with me from a physical therapy appointment, made me realize that rehab is a full time gig. I couldn’t leave things on my desk to address later. As a physical therapist, we teach independence/ modified independence for rehab patients. To experience it first hand has definitely been an eye opening journey.
It gets frustrating at times not being able to do the things that I used to enjoy doing. All of my hobbies(surfing/racing) and my career as a doctor of physical therapy were taken aways from me after brain surgery. A large part of the old me was gone. I was left with the dilemma, “What do I do now?” I’ve learned how to adapt to my impairments. My mind /cognition still functions as it always has, but I still get a lot of curious stares from people because I now use a mobility scooter AKA the “mAss Kicker Mobile” to get around. I’ve learned to ignore those stares, but occasionally I still notice them. I hope that someday people can look past the scooter and crutches I use for mobility and see the individual WITH those assistive devices. Those things are now a part of my life, but they don’t define me. They are hard to ignore, but they are only a part of who I am NOW! Granted, my goals in life have changed but I’m on a new path is starting to emerge where I can still use my education/experiences to teach others about a living life after a devastating diagnosis. I’m having A LOT OF FUN discovering new hobbies and interests, but part of me misses the activities that I used to enjoy.
My personal experiences have led me on an exciting new journey around the world! I’ve traveled all over the United States talking about my experiences on both sides of rehabilitation. Recently, I’ve taken the message of “post-treatment thrivership” international. Last year mAss Kickers Foundation, the organization I started, took a group of cancer survivors to the University of Hawaii, Manoa and Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines to speak to college students about life after a tumor/cancer diagnosis. We also went to Tokyo and met with fellow survivors in Japan. We’re trying to set up more international talks to spread our message of “post treatment thrivership.” A strong global community needs to be created to efficiently fight these diseases. A strategy is starting to form… We’ve started a “How To Kick Mass” educational program for: Healthcare students, healthcare professionals, and for cancer survivors. The world needs to know and see that there is life after a tumor/cancer diagnosis. I think that young adult “thrivers” (proactive survivors) are the perfect messengers for this… “All I Ever Wanted to Do” was help people. It is the reason that I initially chose a career in physical therapy. In the past 8 years I’ve used my physical therapy background to adapt and discover new skills I can use to HELP PEOPLE! The next few years should be exciting! Please check out mAss Kickers Foundation a consider a donation to support the further growth of the organization and our programs. STAY TUNED! I COULD ALWAYS USE HELP WITH THE NEXT BIG STEP!