Leaning on Friends

Leaning on Friends

I don’t particularly like hiking. Steep inclines and unpaved pathways make me nervous. And sometimes it feels like I have pogo sticks instead of feet. I don’t always know which direction my body will propel me.

Nevertheless, the hiking trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway are gorgeous. And whenever my friends and I take a trip out to western North Carolina, hiking is always on the itinerary.

A few days ago, while scrolling through my Facebook feed, I saw an old photo I took during one of those hiking trips. It was a simple shot — black and white and not entirely in focus. But I remember taking it while lagging behind my friends. I wore the sturdiest shoes I had at the time. I remember hearing the click of the shutter and seeing, through the viewfinder, one of my friends ahead of me — in flip-flops.

(Photo by Young Lee)

Seeing that photo again reminded me of some of my struggles with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT). It made me think of the frustration it sometimes brought me and the fine line between knowing your limits and wanting to push them. But it also reminded me of the friends who’ve watched out for me and helped me along the way.

Granted, these struggles aren’t unique — they’re universal. But growing up knowing of CMT meant that I knew I was different from my friends. The ankle-foot orthoses encasing my feet reminded me constantly of this, as did my physical therapy sessions that highlighted actions I felt should be simple, but which were a struggle. I was — and still am — clumsy, slow, and prone to falling on my face.

Looking back, it was always tempting for me to wallow in self-pity for a bit and lament that I was never as graceful as my peers and I’d probably never be as fast. And, if I’m honest with myself, I think I did plenty of that. In retrospect, there were times when I think I quit too early without leaving it all on the table. I have vivid memories of frustrations on the tennis court, badminton court, and at the roller rink.

And that is why I’m glad I have friends whom I’ve grown to trust. Without them, I don’t think I’d have been able to go out on adventures that I’d have otherwise felt way too self-conscious about. Without them, I don’t think I’d have hiked at all, done a 5K, or gone jet skiing. I appreciate my friends’ ability to wait for me and help me when needed, while not treating me like a baby.

At the last Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association meeting I attended, a member said that it is important to do what we can, while our bodies can. I don’t know how CMT may affect my body in the years to come. However, I am glad to be able to take advantage of the abilities I have while I have them and to lean on my good friends when I need to. They may be in flip-flops and bounding ahead of me on our travels together, but I’m glad I get to share the adventures with them.

In truth, no one knows what the future has in store, and with the trails that life throws our way, I think it’s important to have a network of folks to lean on. In many ways, none of us completely stand on our own two — and we are better for it.

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Note: Charcot-Marie-Tooth News 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 Charcot-Marie-Tooth News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Charcot-Marie-Tooth.

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