For the Silva family, cleaning out the basement in recent weeks has become a trip down memory lane. Pictures strewn in boxes tell stories of my childhood and how my parents did everything in their power to give me a “normal” childhood. Old textbooks remind of all the late nights I spent in college studying, hoping to prove myself and my academics to others. Essays, poems, and short stories from grade school remind me that I’ve certainly come a long way in my writing skills. One essay, however, stood out to me from the rest.
Written in messy cursive and faint pencil marks, the title of the essay was, “My Wish for the Millennium.” I wrote this piece in 1999 to enter a contest — I ended up getting second place. Before I began to read it, I stared at the piece of paper for a moment at my handwriting. I still remember being that age and not understanding why the other kids’ pencil marks were so thick and bold while mine were thin and barely visible. I wanted to be like them so badly. It seems so trivial now, but being at an age in which I didn’t fully understand the extent of my disease (I was 8 or 9), it was hard not to get discouraged.
I wanted to go back in time to hug that girl and tell her it’d be OK. I’d tell her she would eventually lose the ability to write by hand, but she’d move on to bigger and better things than the faint charcoal on her blue-lined paper.
As I began to read the essay, I wanted to hug her even harder.
“For the millennium, I’m wishing for the scientists to get a cure for my disease that I have,” the first sentence read. I went on to explain my disease in its simplest form, telling the readers the “wires” in my body didn’t send messages to my brain. I wished for people in wheelchairs to “get out of wheelchairs” so that they could enter other people’s homes. And, I wished to be able to walk so I could help my parents the way they’ve helped me. What struck me the most in this one-page essay, however, was one simple, poorly written statement that held so much truth in it.
“I have many dreams to do a lot of things, but I can’t walk.”
I read the sentence to myself over and over again. If only she knew, I thought. If only she knew that she already had the strength to rise above her challenges. If only she knew that, someday, she would set out to try to help others by sharing her story and embracing her physical limitations. If only she knew that her strength would always triumph over her struggle.
Shortly after I wrote that essay, I took the lemons of life and, literally, made lemonade to help others who had the same wish as me by starting a nonprofit organization. Years later, I started chronicling my journey through a blog. But, most importantly, I squashed the idea that I wasn’t capable of dreaming because of a disease that tried to tell me otherwise. Nineteen years ago, I was just a girl with a wish. Today, I’m a woman living in a world where hopes and wishes become realities.
To all those (scientists, doctors, philanthropists, etc.) who made my dream, and those of thousands of others, come true, thank you.
Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.