Following my diagnosis in the summer of ‘88, nothing changed in my mind. I was still the same old boy I used to be. However, I ultimately noticed something different, in that I spent more time near the school doors than the playground itself. Before, it used to take until the bell rang for me to find the other children. The second grade rendered such a feat impossible, especially in the wintertime with the heavy snow. I didn’t mind hanging out with my best friend, Tina, during recess. We always had a bag of Cheetos to share.
What I remember most was our field trip to the Royal Ontario Museum. At the time, there was a dinosaur exhibit that all the boys were excited for. The Tyrannosaurus Rex was the main attraction, of course. Everyone kept going upstairs and downstairs while I struggled to follow, but thanks to Mom being with me, we were allowed to use the elevator, which became a Godsend to my weakening leg muscles.
Chartland Junior Public School was good to me. Once it was discovered that I had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, they started sending me to Variety Village, a fitness centre for the disabled, every week. It was tough. I dreaded the sessions, but knew there was a reason I needed to be there. I tried my hardest and never gave up.
By the beginning of third grade, I could no longer walk up the steps leading to the front door of our new townhouse. Mom would painstakingly carry me to the school entrance every morning. No matter how much work it became, I never let her lift me inside the building because I was too embarrassed for myself.
And it’s always in our darkest hours that we find redemption. I learned acceptance when I realized the hardships of facing recess alone in the searing summer heat. Mr. Passell never stopped offering to help me back inside, but refusal kept me from giving in to the symptoms of the illness. Though my tiny hands got burned from the brick walls, I had to battle it out, even when I didn’t know exactly what I was fighting for.
My defining moment came when I walked too far to the basketball pole. I, unfortunately, fell to the pavement just when everyone started returning to class. I was alone and defeated. It was impossible to recover, how my only leverage rested upon the extremely hot metal pipe that stood before me. I tried and tried, slipping all the time, but then, I heard a voice. Somehow, I found my footing again.
“Everything is going to be okay.” she whispered.
A year later, I was already wheelchair bound, but wasn’t sad as I realized my reason for endurance. I needed to have a genuine sense of accomplishment. Instead of feeling sorry, I gave myself a pat on the back for fighting the good fight. That was my winning attitude.