My chest was tight and I couldn’t breathe--because my spine was pinching my right lung. My classmates passed me on the track. And when all of my friends were done, I still had another lap.
Until that mile run in the seventh grade, I used to pretend my disability wasn’t there. But that day, I realized I’d have to face it.
My doctor told me that one in a million people have multiple pterygium syndrome -- a combination of congenital scoliosis and a joint disorder that makes it hard to move my arms and legs. At the age of 10, I went from being a kid who climbed trees and ran just about everywhere, to one who might never play sports again. I felt angry and alone.
Then, I was adopted out of foster care, and eventually my mom took me to wheelchair basketball because she didn’t want me to give up on being active.
I remember my first time in a gym full of other kids with disabilities. Some were making basket after basket from in their wheelchairs, but I was just trying to get used to pushing one for the first time.
From then on, I practiced every Saturday and traveled out of state to compete with other teams. My body changed. Muscles grew. My lung efficiency shot up--I got more air with each breath.
The emotional changes were even more profound. As a former foster kid, I was used to being alone, and not relying on other people, But to improve as part of a team, I had to learn to listen to criticism, be vulnerable, and trust my teammates. Eventually I was able to do the same with my adoptive parents.
My case of scoliosis won’t ever be “fixed.” For a while, it was getting worse. At its most extreme, I couldn’t walk a block without scorching pain. But I stopped seeing my disability as a limitation. Sscoliosis enabled me to be who I am--the athlete, the daughter, the friend.
With a Perspective, I’m Christie Levine.
Christie Levine is 18-years-old and lives in Berkeley. Her commentary was produced by Youth Radio.