Most of you that know me only know what I let you know, mostly because some of my life is entirely too hard to talk about. Or, at least it was until I learned what being a fighter truly meant. Let me start simple, I’m Laura Ashcraft, I’m twenty-four years old. I was born with a physical disability known as Cerebral Palsy. Cerebral Palsy can be very severe, to where it affects every inch of your body making muscles so tight the person is unable to move. I got lucky. I can walk, this can be rare for people that have this. You know how I got there? I fight tooth and nail every day. I get up, I make myself move, I make myself walk, I push through whatever pain exists to the point that now, it’s become less and less noticeable. My life has never been easy, between surgeries, hours of painful physical therapy that makes muscles I didn’t know existed feel like they are on fire, to Botox shots injected deep into the muscles to help loosen them, not just a few try ten to eighteen shots per leg all of them burning. I’ve fought my whole life for a number of reasons, this should be my biggest contender but honestly I barely notice it anymore. I’ve gone from walking on a walker for two, four prong canes, to two arm crutches, to one arm crutch. I didn’t start walking on one until I was nearly a teenager, some kids laughed, some kids made fun, and yeah there were times that I went home crying, but did I let it affect me? No. If a person lets any kind of sickness, disability or anything that is in their way hold them back from being who they want to be then they are no longer living. Life wasn’t meant to be easy, if it was easy we’d all be millionaires with cars houses and bodies that were nearly indestructible. Life is about the fight. Fighting for who you want to be. No one no matter what they do or say we ever be defined as normal simply because there is no normal, there’s only who you are. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the years it’s this:

I’m a lover and a fighter! I fight for what I love, and I love what I fight for.

People often ask what inspires me and if you really want to know, it’s my brother and my rocky past. My brother is younger than me, and he is my absolute world. He’s twenty years old, and also has a disability. My brother was diagnosed with autism at the age of three or four years old. For those of you that don’t know what autism is, it’s a disability that affects a persons mind. You and I are able to distinguish between our senses and appreciate small things because we can focus on them. For my brother all of his senses rush at once. It’s close to living a life in fast forward. The ability to process thoughts is there, but because all of the senses fight inside his head, he’s rarely able to get a thought out the way you or I would. I fight for him.  He is what inspires me to be better and push through anything in my way. Why? If he sees me fight harder, walk through, and conquer not only my disability but everything life throws in my way, then he will know two things. One, never give up, no matter how much it hurts. Two, the harder you fight, the more apparent your purpose becomes. Never let something like a disability define who you are. It simply does no such thing. Yes, it’s part of you. Yes it makes things hard, but truthfully, the only thing that defines who you are is you. In life your biggest problem is you, and the only way to solve it is yourself.  So, if any of you out there have something that affects you physically. Accept it. Own it. Laugh at yourself. There are times I have fallen on my face and needed help carrying things or even just walking up stairs but when I fall…. I pretend I’m praying and everyone laughs. If I fall and rip my knees open, which I have done on multiple occasions. I claimed to have started a war with the concrete and lost pathetically. If I need help up stairs or down a hill I usually talk about how I’m attempting to pass my version of a sobriety test, but they  don’t know whether to pass or fail. Mostly though, when I walk I call it having swagger. Life is meant to be fun, and what is life if you can’t make fun of yourself. Life teaches you lessons, good and bad. One of them is to never let what affects you define who you are. Sure, we all have bad days and just want it to go away, but if it went away, whatever it may be, you would never be who you’re meant to be.

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