Here is an amazing guest post by one of my best friends, Annalee of The Whims of Anna. I'm so lucky to have such awesome people in my life!
"I have always known that my friend Melissa was an amazing woman. My first memory of her was when I was in 8th grade (she was in 9th) and we were both auditioning for a coveted choir position. She auditioned right before me and I put my ear to the closed door to try and hear if she was a better singer than me. Even though I didn’t know her name and never spoke to her, it’s hard to forget the girl with the leg braces and crutches (she had just had another surgery).
A couple years later when I was a sophomore in high school, Mel and I got to know each other through a mutual friend and we quickly became close friends. As a teenager, I hardly took a second thought to Mel’s CMT (it took me the longest time to even remember the name of her disease) but it was clearly evident that being a teenager with CMT was not an easy position to be in.
Mel couldn’t walk as quickly as the rest of us or dance as much as the rest of us did at the dances after the football games. She had multiple surgeries that left her wearing colorful casts and using wheelchairs and crutches. Overall, it made her constantly different and no teenager wants to stand out as being different. However, Mel was a trooper and you would never know that she sometimes wished to be like the 'normal' girls. Even though it sometimes killed her, she still went to dances, amusement parks and toured internationally with her choir. Despite the difficulties, I think CMT allowed her to discover her inner strength and helped her develop attributes of endurance and patience at a young age.
As her close friend, I benefited from the lessons she was learning and our friendship allowed me opportunities to experience new and difficult situations. I have fond memories of pushing Mel around in her wheel chair after one particular surgery. Her mother was always very distraught about her leaving the house with the rest of us teenagers, but I promised that I would bring her home safely. I learned how to fold up the wheelchair and fit it in my trunk, how important handicapped parking is, and how to give dirty looks to those people who thought we were just playing around on the store’s electronic shopping carts. I also felt the frustration when places were not wheelchair accessible. One night the two of us went to the mall and went shopping on the 2nd floor. When it was time to go home, the elevators were not working. The mall sat on a kind of hill and had outside entrances on both the 2nd and 1st floors. I hauled Mel outside in the dark and we took the very long, very steep sidewalk all the way around the mall to the other side where it met the ground where our car was parked. Let’s just say that’s an experience neither of us wants to relive!
Now that we are both adults, it is easy to see how having learned these life lessons at a young age has made a difference over the years. Melissa has proven that it is possible to take this 'liability' and use it to benefit the lives of all who are around her. I hope that other teenagers who find themselves facing the difficulties that CMT brings will also find the strength to face it head-on and smile in spite of the pain."