A toast to life
Every birthday is a milestone in the midst of life’s uncertainties.
ILOVE birthdays. They are very special occasions. Every year, I start the countdown to my birthday months before the big day.
When I was a child, birthdays meant lots of cards, hugs, sweets, treats, flowers, gifts and blessings. Decades later, I still look forward to birthdays with much anticipation and excitement.
I never thought I would be around to celebrate my 50th birthday as I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when I was eight months old. Muscular dystrophy is a genetic disease characterised by progressive weakness and degeneration of the muscles that control movement.
Some forms of muscular dystrophy manifest in early childhood, while others may not appear until middle age or later. The disorders differ in the extent of muscle weakness, rate of progression and the pattern of inheritance. There is no cure for muscular dystrophy, but treatment can help manage many of the symptoms. Treatment includes physical and speech therapy, surgery and medications.
In the later stages of the disease, the patient may have diminished heart and respiratory functions which can be potentially life-threatening.
I’ve been a wheelchair user since I was eight years old. The doctors told my parents there was no cure for my condition, and recommended physiotherapy to delay the progression of the disease.
Muscular dystrophy patients may have a shortened lifespan as the disease progresses, so I often wondered if I would have a chance to celebrate my 50th birthday.
For a couple of months prior to my birth- day, I prayed daily for God to bless me with good health as I wasn’t in good shape. Muscular dystrophy had slowly ravaged my body and I knew I couldn’t postpone the things I wanted to do in life.
I wanted to enjoy every moment I have because my condition is deteriorating by the day. I had lost a lot of weight over the months prior to my birthday. My food intake had dropped as I had difficulty swallowing.
Osteoporosis had weakened my bones to a point where it was tiring for me to sit up for too long.
Besides health concerns, my father, a stroke patient, was taken ill suddenly and had to be hospitalised. But God heard my prayers and my father recovered and was discharged in time for the family to make the necessary preparations for my big birthday bash on Oct 6 last year.
When I awoke that morning, I lay in bed listening to the birds outside my window singing a birthday song for me. What a beautiful morning it was. I thanked God for the gift of life. I had never felt so good in a long time, and my heart was filled with thanksgiving.
It was a birthday I will never forget. Family members and friends turned up in full force bearing gifts, good wishes and blessings, to make the day a truly joyous one for me.
Blowing out the few candles on the birthday cake required tremendous effort on my part. But one by one, I blew out the candles as friends and family members cheered me on. It was wonderful to be surrounded by loved ones. I had a great time catching up with friends I had not seen for some time. Months after the big bash, my spirit is still lifted up by the warm glow of camaraderie.
Yes, living with a failing body has never fazed me. Since I spend most of my time in a wheelchair, I feel every elevation change and uneven surface on the ground. I know life has its ups and downs, highs and lows, and I’ve learnt to deal with the uneven surface.
Muscular dystrophy has robbed me of my ability to do simple things which most people take for granted. Daily tasks like brushing my teeth, taking a bath and feeding myself take on Herculean proportions. These are some of the challenges that a person in my situation has to deal with on a daily basis.
Yes, I have muscular dystrophy, and yes, it has changed the course of my life, but it can’t stop me from making the most of every day for as long as I have breath.
Milestone: The writer celebrating her 50th birthday on Oct 6 last year.