- What type of health condition or disability do you have and when were you diagnosed?
My name is Michele Erdman, I am 35 years old. I am a wife, mother, and I have LGMD type 2I. I was diagnosed with LGMD type 2I at age 28. It was following my fourth pregnancy that my doctors were concerned about my liver enzymes in my blood work. This, along with the inability to lift my children began my journey. I am mostly affected by not being able to climb stairs without major difficulty. I am not able to run after my children which they take full advantage of. I have noticed some changes recently….I can’t pour a full pot of coffee anymore, or even pick up a bigger mug of coffee without some difficulty. This is my life, and I am so used to how things are that I don’t even think of it on a daily basis.
- What was your initial reaction to receiving your diagnosis or to finding out about your health condition?
My initial reaction was complete relief that there was an answer to why I was so weak and my blood work was off. After being told your whole life (as I was) that you just needed to exercise more and that you must be lazy, it was a wonderful thing to know it wasn’t in your head and the symptoms weren’t imagined. I had been told from a very young age that I was uncoordinated and I have always run out of physical energy really quick. So to know there is a reason behind it all, came to be a relief.
- Is your condition progressive or is your health stable? If it is progressive, any comments on dealing with and adapting to the changes?
My condition is progressive, but thankfully it is a slower progression right now. I am learning to take my time and be patient. I am also learning to let go of my pride. I have to ask for help a lot more now with what seem like small things to others, but to me they aren’t small. Just washing windows is tough for me. I do have four children and many people say that I should ask them, but they are like every other child and complain when being asked to work…so this is difficult at times. I am learning to start being proactive about my weakness. I’m trying to look ahead as much as I can and this affects such things as what kind of home to purchase, car to drive, and activities I’m involved in. I know that I will not have a home with a basement now, that is a certainty.
- How did your parents treat your disability growing up? Did they expect the same out of you as your siblings, if you have any? How did they help you overcome thoughts or worries, if any, about limitations?
Growing up, I was just told I was weak and needed to work out more. When I did this, it just seemed that I was making things worse, so I would give up. Now when I approach something, I give it my all. I work hard to try to do things on my own…I clean my own home, make all the meals and do all the laundry. I am not fast, and at times this is frustrating. I am learning to slow down and not except too much out of myself. This is when I work on my pride. I can’t do everything and I get very frustrated at times, but I try to figure out a way around things. For example, to clean out my fridge, I sit on a chair in front of the fridge and throw things away. I improvise. I use the muscles that work better than others. I try not to think about if others are watching me walk funny or do things funny. This is just me.
- How did your condition impact your personal relationships through the years? (childhood, teen years, adulthood, etc).
I am extremely blessed to have a very supportive husband and family. My husband has been the one to push me to find an answer about what was going on. He is my strength…literally. He lifts me, and helps me when I need it. I believe it is my job to teach my children how to be around people with disabilities. I know that I have so much more patience with the elderly…it may sound funny, but I feel as though I have the most in common with the elderly. I am much slower than others, and I’m not as strong as I used to be…I tell my grandmother all the time, anytime she wants a shopping buddy, I’m her gal…I know how to keep up with her 🙂
- Who has been the biggest influence in your life and why?
My biggest influence so far has been Michael Vannover. I met Mike about a year ago and he too has LGMD. He has given me a ton of encouragement and I am grateful to know him. Another influence has been a woman I’ve never met, Jessica from TSF. She has really been there to talk to me when I’ve needed someone who understands what I’m going through.
- How did your disability inspire you to greater heights or motivate you to work harder?
I am motivated to learn more about others with disabilities, I am so encouraged by those who don’t give up. I look at things differently now, I am much more adventuresome now than I ever was. I figure I will do everything that is within my power to do now, while I still can. Every day is exciting, and I’m thankful for every day.
- What is the most important factor that has helped you overcome challenges?
My relationship with Jesus Christ has been the most important single factor in my overcoming challenges. I was created by him and for him and he knew me before I became. I believe I am here to glorify Christ, and I live to glorify him in all I do.
- Do you live by a certain “motto” (saying)?
James 1:2-4. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
I don’t always consider my disability “pure joy,” but I will say that I am daily learning perseverance in the face of struggles. I can’t say that I would be where I am spiritually or mentally had I not had this disability. So for that, I accept and persevere.
- If you were speaking to a young person today with a disability, what advice would you like to give them? What would you like to tell them about reaching for goals and achieving dreams?
I would tell any young person that they were created for a purpose and a reason. They can choose to be someone special and be strong and to “keep on keeping on.” It is important to find what you CAN do and do it to the best of their ability, and that is good enough!! Handle everything with a sense of humor…others will always say things…but we can laugh at ourselves or our situations, this relieves tension and in doing so we reveal something about ourselves. I think having a sense of humor is one of the most enduring traits by any person about any problem…it is all in how you look at it. The key word is “you” in that sentence. Laugh and be joyful!! You can do almost anything…I happen to love Colonial Reenacting. It is very difficult sometimes for me to do this hobby…but I’ve learned to do it my way to the best of my ability. I still do it, but I have to sit most of the time…and that is okay, as long as I can still do it, I will.
- Is there anything else you would like you share about yourself?
I accept my LGMD…I embrace it as well. It has taken time to actually embrace it. At first it was denial, then a little depression, but now it is my life…and I get the chance to live it. I know that someday when I am in heaven I will get to run, and jump and even bend over and pick things up…but until then, there is a ton of stuff I can do…most importantly is that I get to be a mom of 4 wonderful children and a wife to an amazingly wonderful husband!!