When I meet up with old college friends, we often spend time reminiscing. We recall late nights, trips, and past relationships. Looking back, we think about how much has changed in our lives; our careers, relationships, and bodies have altered a lot in the decade since graduation.
The shifts are apparent by the phrases and topics present in these conversations. “I’ve been eating more salads.” “I’ve been trying to exercise more.” “I can’t drink like I used to.” Of course, all of these things apply to me as well. However, I think I’ve had some changes that are different than my peers and I can’t help but wonder, is it Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT)?
I have long since accepted that I may never be able to do particular things because of CMT. I wasn’t a fast runner and didn’t aspire to sports greatness. Despite my lack of athletic ambition, I’ve begun lately to take notice of my physical abilities, thinking, “Could I do that before?”
Because CMT is chronic and progressive, I know I can expect my symptoms to worsen over time. But I’m still surprised when I realize that I’ve lost a capability.
I recently noticed my decline when I was helping my father to move a headboard for my grandmother.
I was once proud of my ability to walk backward. After four years of marching band, I thought that I was pretty good at it. But as I carried one end of the headboard while walking backward down a hallway looking to my father for guidance, I thought, “Wasn’t this easier before?”
Walking backward isn’t the only skill that’s vanished. Recently, I realized that I couldn’t cross my fingers — at least not without assistance from my other hand. Again I thought, “Couldn’t I do this before?”
This was the gesture I used as a child to wish myself luck. Didn’t we all cross our fingers when trying to deceive our playground pals?
I know these things are relatively minor. By the time he was my age, my father had been affected by CMT to a greater degree. At least I can still walk fairly comfortably for a few miles and my hands serve me just fine in my day-to-day life.
Though I know that my identity isn’t tied to my ability to cross my fingers or walk backward, I still feel unsettled. I can acknowledge my slow physical deterioration on a mental level, but it’s still an emotional challenge.
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