You are my hero

Posted by Elizabeth Forst in Life After Paralysis on October 31, 2017 # Mobility

Destructive wildfires, hellacious hurricane winds, and destabilizing political times

I love public speaking. Most impressionable is speaking to children, especially kids that have never been exposed to or even spoken to a person in a wheelchair. Because of this, I have begun to do some public speaking in my own neighborhood, communities and local school systems here in the Denver Metro area. Here is a small story of my recent experience at Littleton Preparatory Charter School in Littleton, Colorado. I hope this story brings a smile to your face and a much-needed diversion from the wildfires, hurricanes and other such stories that muddle our daily media interactions.

This month I was invited to publicly speak at Littleton Preparatory Charter School, one presentation to the kindergartners through third-graders and the second presentation to the fourth through sixth graders. My purpose was to expose the kids to disability, what my life is now like being in a wheelchair and how to find the strength within oneself to overcome depression and obstacles when the road seems just so difficult no matter what age or physical condition you are in…

The presentations went fantastic and of course the "littles" have no filter or inhibitions on the curiosity of their questions. Things like how to get dressed, brush one's teeth, get around town, pay for my caregivers, go to the bathroom, whether I drowned or whether I was breathing and alive at the moment of the presentation were just a few of the wonderful questions I entertained during the few hours I spent with the kids. They were intrigued, engaged and I know they left the auditorium that day with a newfound understanding of disability, wheelchairs and a sense to never take for granted the little things like walking, running, playing sports, feeding oneself and never being afraid to ask for help. They were fantastic. They were such a breath of fresh air during such crazy times.

But my day ended when little 10-year-old Alex approached me after my second presentation to ask if he could shake my paralyzed hand and tell me how inspired he was by my story. For little Alex, the bravest 10-year-old I have ever met, has acute lymphoblastic leukemia type III, a rare and very fatal type of blood cancer that he has been battling for five years. He started his journey of overcoming his own obstacles when he was five years old – five years old. When his friends are playing on the playground, running and jumping, riding their bikes with their siblings and going to McDonald's for Saturday cheeseburgers, little Alex spends his days receiving experimental cancer treatments in hopes that he may be one of the few that survives this very rare disease. He has been through so much physical and mental pain, yet he finds a smile and the ability to inspire anyone that meets him, and now me.

I just had a few minutes of looking into his big brown eyes and his innocent smile as he told me that he promises that he will never give up as long as I never give up. He told me I was his hero.

No Alex – you are my hero.

Do not give up, life is precious and we are all so fortunate to be alive.

*Since writing this blog, Alex's bone marrow transplant from last year has recently been discovered a failure. He has been taken out of fourth grade at Littleton prep to receive experimental treatment for his rare cancer and at this time has no date of return to school and friends. We have created a pen pal correspondence and I am following with the school and his family on his treatments and condition. Please say a prayer Alex, he needs and deserves all of our love and prayers.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.