My name is Abby Mccage and I’m currently 17, but about to turn 18 in October. AN ADULT YAY! I have a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy called Collagen 6. It took my family very long to receive an actual diagnosis of my disease, due to how rare it is. I’m still very young, and have a lot of my life left to live, but living with Muscular Dystrophy has definitely not been the easiest for me. I have struggled with the obvious, of course, and that is realizing that I’m getting weaker, but as a teen, I’ve struggled more with the emotional side of being different. I’ve always been very ashamed of myself and my disease.
In middle school, I would force myself to walk, no matter how physically draining it was because of the fear of being judged. I even remember not sitting in a wheelchair at MDA camp, which is a camp for kids with neuromuscular diseases. Every kid around me was in a wheelchair, but I was very stubborn and refused. I’ve always been very determined when it comes to my disease and I didn’t want people to see me as weak, and a wheelchair to me was the definition of “weak.” I was filled with so much anxiety and depression due to the fact that I was trying to live my life being seen a “normal,” instead of being myself.
At school, I wouldn’t mention my disease and when people asked me questions, I just said “I don’t know” and moved on. I didn’t want anyone to know that there was something different about me. I just wanted to fit in. Personally, middle school was really hard on me while living with Muscular Dystrophy. However, thankfully, I was able to be homeschooled eighth grade and freshman year of high school. One reason was because I was scheduled to have a surgery that not only required me to use a wheelchair, but also 6 months to a year of recovery. This surgery enabled me to walk flat instead of on my tiptoes. However, during this time I grew a lot as a person also. I HAD to sit in a wheelchair and I HAD to go places in my wheelchair. I hated it so much, don’t get me wrong, but I grew so much because of it- lemme tell ya!!
While being homeschooled, in eighth grade, I was required to write an autobiography (I promise there’s a point to this story). I wrote this autobiography not knowing that I was going to have to read it aloud. My teacher, WHOSE MOM HAD MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY (such a God thing), told us to present on what we had written. At that time, I was still very ashamed and didn’t want to tell people I had Muscular Dystrophy so I ended up emailing my teacher. I asked her if I had to read the part about me having MD and her exact response was, “of course you don’t have to, but I just want you to know that there is nothing at all to be ashamed about.” For some reason, that has stuck with me. I ended up telling the whole class about my disease, which was the first time I had ever admitted to being different. I also believe that this was a big breakthrough for me in finding myself.
After freshman year, I decided to go back to school. Not only did I decide to go back to school, but I decided to use my wheelchair. I didn’t use the wheelchair because I had gotten physically weaker, but because I had finally found the emotional strength to be myself and being myself included using my wheelchair. Going back to school was one of the hardest and best things I ever did, due to the fact that it has helped me become MYSELF, maybe not “normal,” but I know I have a purpose for the circumstances I face.
I never would’ve attended a Speak Foundation conference if it wasn’t for me returning back to school. I had met one of my best friends at school. She was an exchange student and HER HOST DAD HAD MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY (also a God thing, by the way). Her host family introduced me to the Speak Foundation. As soon as I heard about it, I felt called to attend. This year was my very first time attending and I loved it! I loved listening to older and wiser women give great advice for me as I go through young adulthood. I can’t wait to attend next year.
I hope that by telling my story I can motivate and inspire young girls, disability or not, to be their authentic self. To be who they were made to be. It took me a long time to find my worth and, to be honest, I’m still working on it. However, I know my weakness doesn’t define me. God has a purpose for my pain and I believe, and always will, that in my weakness He is my strength. He is the one that has given me purpose. He’s the one writing my story of strength.
Published Aug. 2018