How to triumph over a physical disability

Seventeen years ago my husband was paralyzed from the waist down at age 22 after an industrial accident. One year ago, my 75-year-old father lost his right leg above the knee in an automobile accident. The lessons I have learned from them are as follows:

  • Never look back. Since there is nothing that can be done about what has already happened, don't spend time regretting what may or may not have been done to change the situation.- Look forward. Both of these men have moved on with their lives. My husband changed jobs within the business where he was employed. My father has continued to farm. Both would meet new situations and challenges by pondering the problem they faced and then figuring out ways to solve it.
  • Help others to feel comfortable around you. If you don't pay special attention to your disability, others will soon be able to be comfortable also.
  • Answer questions honestly. Many times horrified parents stand by embarrassed as their children innocently ask a disabled person questions. Others' discomfort can be lessened if you are honest about the disability.
  • Have a sense of humor. In our family, we often make jokes about our situations. This helps others to help realize that since we are not making a tragedy out of things then they shouldn't do so either.
  • Pray. We have received strength to deal with our particular circumstances through prayer.
  • Serve others. There are many ways that you can serve others. Those you serve may have disabilities that may be the same or different from yours.
  • Accept service. In our situation, sometimes when others offer to help us we are embarrassed or uncomfortable, but when we allow them to help, they receive the warm glow that comes from service.

A good attitude goes a long way toward triumphing over a physical disability. I draw strength from my belief that both my husband and father will once again be made whole in the life hereafter. – Janet Rowley, West Jordan, Utah

What we did:

Not a punishment

As a person who has had rheumatoid arthritis since the age of 9 (30 years), I cope with my disability by realizing the following:

  • Heavenly Father is not punishing me. He has presented me with an opportunity to learn patience, gratitude, determination and creativity.
  • Heavenly Father has blessed me with the love and support of a wonderful husband. – Kathi Armborst, Rittman, Ohio

The best parts

A younger sister phoned to say, "When they amputate your leg, they won't be taking the best part of you – your laugh, intelligence, testimony, sense of humor and personality."

This new challenge has enabled me to learn many new skills, but most of all it has taught me to do the following:

  • Accept the love and encouragement from a loving spouse and family.
  • Look around and realize that many have handicaps (seen and unseen) much worse than mine.
  • Act like a normal, happy person so others will want to be around me.
  • Realize a loving Heavenly Father and Savior want me to overcome problems and continue to accomplish what I came on earth to do. – Carma A. Beus, Sedona, Ariz.

Helped her grow

I was born with cerebral palsy. I am 13 years old. I have triumphed over my disability by realizing that God gave me this challenge for a reason. It has helped me grow in faith, learn to love God and learn to not think that I am different from other people. Triumphing over physical difficulties can be very hard, but it is a wonderful feeling when you have done all you can do and it is more than you thought you could at first. If there is something you can't do, you can find something you can do instead. – Danielle Freeborn, Arlington, Texas

Avoid pride

Fifteen years ago, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In addition to the most important fact of trusting in the Lord and making use of His atonement by allowing Him to carry my burdens, I have also learned some other things:

  • Don't let pride become a bigger stumbling block than the disability itself.
  • Learn about the disease. I spent hundreds of hours in a medical library learning about the disease.
  • Don't ask, "Why me?" I figure I can handle this better than anybody I know.
  • Get priesthood blessings. Eight years ago, my condition worsened and was affecting me both cognitively and physically. After a blessing, my cognitive functions were restored, I stopped deteriorating physically and have even shown some improvement.
  • Do what you can to improve the situation. Several years ago as I began to feel the effects of summer, I pondered what I could do to help myself. I found that restricting the eating of meat in the summer, as the Word of Wisdom counsels, and losing weight helped me to handle the heat much better.
  • Be grateful for what you have.
  • Accept the disability as a challenge, not as something to hold you back. After being told by people that I would not be able to complete the 12-quarter academic program I was in, I rose to the challenge. I wrote research papers, became involved in school politics and activities, graduated in the shortest possible time, was class valedictorian, won statewide awards, etc.
  • Recognize the positives. – J. Marlene Nelson Smeaton, Kingsburg, Calif.

Day-to-day struggle

In the summer of 1994, I was caught in a fire which left 48 percent of my body covered with third-degree burns. I lost all of my fingers and my face was left disfigured. In the day-to-day struggle, the ability to find just one thing that would make me smile or find just one small bit of improvement gave me hope. Knowing this condition will only exist during my mortal life gives me strength to carry on. – John Merrill, Idaho Falls, Idaho

Positive attitude

From my own experiences with multiple sclerosis, I have learned to take each day as it comes. You never look at small things as meaningless. Just to feel the grass on your bare feet in times of remission is a great joy. I believe that keeping a positive attitude and focusing on what you can do and not what you cannot do makes all the difference. – Celeste Bynum, Haines City, Fla.

Count blessings

Don't blame a disability for inequities or injustices you experience, even if it is a contributing factor. Hiding behind a disability will never solve any problems. Count the blessings that are yours specifically because of your disability. – Patsy Hendrickson, Salt Lake City, Utah

How to checklist:

  1. Look forward, not backward; develop a positive attitude.
  1. Pray, have faith, seek priesthood blessings; be humble.
  1. Count blesings; serve others, let others help you.
  1. Accept challenges; focus on what you can, not can't do.

Write to us:

Sept. 27 "How to cope with the death of a parent."

Oct. 4 "How to apply general conference counsel in your life."

Oct. 18 "How to find balance as primary care-giver of a sick or elderly loved one."

Oct. 25 "How to fortify your homes against evil."

Nov. 1 "How to avoid a mid-life crisis."

Nov. 8 "How to help your marriage grow while you're in college."

  • Also interested in letters on these topics: "How to get out of a rut in your career," "How to develop a healthy dating relationship," "How to help yourself or loved one overcome an abusive nature."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2524 or use internet E-mail: [email protected]. Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.