Dealing with Disability

Melani McLean, 18

I often wonder what my life would be like without my disability. I would be able to tie my shoes, and I would be able to run. A myriad of tasks would be simpler. Sometimes I wish my life were different, but then I would be a completely different person. I was born with cerebral palsy, a condition that makes it difficult for me to walk and to perform tasks requiring fine motor skills. Cerebral palsy has dictated everything I have ever done or ever will do. On the other hand, I don’t know how to live without it; I can’t look back at what I have lost.

devozine Melani McLean2I used to hate the word disability. I didn’t want people to apply the term to me, but I got upset when they didn’t. I thought I had to prove myself and that asking for help was a sign of weakness. I was miserable and angry. I never felt as if I belonged. I thought that people did things for me because they felt sorry for me. The idea that they could like me for who I am was incomprehensible. Finally, I realized that I had two choices: I could cry about something I was powerless to change, or I could learn to deal with it.

I am not completely OK with my disability. I am frustrated by having to improvise to do simple tasks. I wonder what I did to deserve this. I can’t comprehend that I am not a mistake. I wonder why God allowed me to be this way. I cannot walk without crutches, but still “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14a, NIV).

I recently finished treatment for malignant melanoma, the most severe form of skin cancer. I had two surgeries to remove the tumor on the back of my arm because the cancer had reached such an advanced stage. I was unable to move; and in ten days, I had lost over half of my mobility. For the next eighteen months, I was on medication, hoping that all the cancer was gone and would not return. I had to learn to walk again, and I could do nothing without assistance. Looking back, I am thankful for the experience. Being completely helpless, along with the bilious side effects of the treatment and the uncertainty of my fate, taught me that I can no longer take my life or my limited mobility for granted.

In the way I live, I try to show that my disability does not define who I am; my scars are only on the outside. Some things I will never be able to do, but my life is not tragic. I have learned to change my perspective and to focus instead on what I can do. I no longer think that God is cruel. I definitely would not have asked to have cerebral palsy; but through it all, God has been with me, shaping me into the person I am.



Read Exodus 4:11 and John 9:1–3. Think of all that God has given you. Focus on what you normally take for granted—your ability to walk, to see, to speak—and give God thanks. Encourage people you know who have a disability. Pray for them and remember that they too are made in God’s image.

Melani McLean, 18 , is an aspiring troubadour and pastor, who is currently pursuing both her dreams at Susquehanna University.

—from devozine (May/June 2012). Copyright © 2012 by The Upper Room. All rights reserved.

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