When I lived in Boston, it became a running joke that I was an accidental trend-setter. Every neighborhood I either lived or worked in became popular as soon as I left.
In 2008, I lived in an absolute dump of an apartment on Boylston Street, right behind Fenway Park. (It sounds cool on paper but trust me, it was a dump.) A year later, I moved out, and almost overnight, luxury apartments and restaurants popped up out of thin air.
In 2010, I was working for Thomson Reuters in Boston’s Seaport neighborhood. At the time, the building complex I worked in, a cluster of 100+ year-old brick buildings, was surrounded by lifeless parking lots. There were only two or three bars nearby. I left to go to another job, and once again, a new neighborhod pops up out of thin air, and is now one of the busiest places in the city.
Same thing with Oak Square, Brighton and Central Square, Cambridge.
Thank you so much to everyone who donated last year to the first-ever Ralph and Theresa Anselmo Resilience Award. The response was overwhelming! I had hoped to fund one award and raised enough to fund two. I am so grateful for everyone’s support. It means so much to my family and I.
If you would like to learn more about last year’s recipients, Hannah and Katherine, Northeastern did a great job sharing their stories:
This year my goal is to fund two $1,000 awards for students registered with the Northeastern University Disability Resource Center. Any amount of support would be greatly appreciated, even if it’s just sharing the GoFundMe link.
I ended up raising over $2,800 last year, and the remaining $800 will be allocated towards this year’s awards. If I raise more than my goal, I will allocate it towards next year. Either way, your donation will be put to good use!
With your support, we have already been able to positively impact the lives of two students. I hope to make this an annual award that can help students for years to come!
For those learning about the award for the first time, here is the description:
The Ralph and Theresa Anselmo Resilience Award is an award that I have created at Northeastern University (my alma mater) in honor of my parents, Ralph and Terry.
The goal of this annual award is to provide monetary assistance to a student (or students) registered with Northeastern’s Disability Resource Center (DRC). Although when I attended Northeastern I did not experience any of the symptoms of the muscle disease that I am living with today, it is a resource I would have used had the timing been different. I have met a handful of students registered with the DRC over the years, and they are some of the kindest, most driven students I have ever met.
As someone living with a progressive disability, I have benefitted from the support of others who have enabled me to achieve my goals and dreams, which included going back to school full-time to get my MBA. Many people have helped me along this journey, none more so than my parents.
My mom and dad have been instrumental in empowering me to succeed, even as my physical condition has deteriorated. They provide me assistance and support without ever asking for anything in return. My resilience today in facing my disease would not be possible without their help.
In the spirit of the example set by my parents, I want to help others achieve their goals and dreams. Specifically, I want to help Northeastern students registered with the DRC. The intent of the award is to provide a little more peace of mind to the recipient, whether it’s helping to purchase a piece of adaptive equipment they may need for the classroom, or putting the award towards books or room and board. How they decide to use the funds is at their discretion.
I am a firm believer that anyone of any ability level can do anything they set their mind to. However, we are only as successful, we are only as strong, as our support system around us.
Without my parents, I wouldn’t be where I am today. It is an honor to name this award after them!
It is a one-time award of $1,000 each for two students. Any funds raised above and beyond the goal will go towards future awards. I will keep everyone up to date on how the funds are allocated.
– Any Northeastern sophomore, middler or junior year student with a GPA above 2.0.
– Must be registered with the Disability Resource Center.
– Student must provide a statement of what they plan to do with the award and why it will help them on their college journey.
How the funds can be used:
– The award can be used on anything school-related, such as: tuition, an assistive technology device, books or room and board.
I will follow up once the award has been announced. Thank you in advance to everyone for your support!
I have some exciting news! I am happy to announce that I am raising money for an award at Northeastern University, my alma mater, called the Ralph and Theresa Anselmo Resilience Award, named after my parents. The award – which may end up being two awards when all is said and done – will be given to a sophomore, middler or junior-year student registered with Northeastern’s Disability Resource Center (DRC).
You can find a link to the GoFundMe page here. Any contribution is greatly appreciated! Even if you are unable to donate, sharing the link with your family and friends would mean the world to me.
I can go from months where I don’t notice any change in my strength to days where it feels like I am weakening by the hour. Over the last couple months, another wave of weakness has infiltrated my muscles, right as I was starting to adjust to my new level of strength. I can track my decline based on the everyday activities I perform, and whether or not they are harder to do than the day before.
Lately, getting out of bed with my walker has become a chore. It requires all the upper body strength I can muster, which is not much these days. My biceps have just about shriveled away, following the lead of my triceps which dissipated a couple years back. My chest and abdominal muscles, once muscular (I’m not talking beach body, but I used to be in shape!) have been replaced by fat. I press with all my might to get up, and although I am still able to stand upright, I worry in the back of my mind about the next time. What if my arms give out or I throw out my back? It’s a long way to the floor.
There are different pieces of equipment out there to aid in the transfer and lifting process, equipment that I am going to need to entertain at some point. I also have my dad who can help me, but I can’t rely on him forever – he is going to be 70 in September and has back issues of his own. Unfortunately, every time I go through weakening fits like this, I procrastinate on getting new equipment. It is a bug in my program.
This is a continuation of my post from earlier in the week, which you can find here.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s famous book, Outliers, he talks about several factors that set high-achievers apart from the rest of the population. One of the main takeaways of the book is something called the “10,000 Hour Rule” – basically, anyone who has ever become an expert at anything has needed to immerse themselves in a task for at least 10,000 hours. This holds whether you’re the Beatles practicing to become the greatest band of all time, or Bill Gates learning to program a computer.
Although the premise has been the subject of intense debate, what is beyond argument is that the more you practice or experience something, the more of an expert you become. It’s rather straightforward.
Assuming the 10,000 hour rule is mostly true, I boldly assert that I am an expert at being a patient with muscular dystrophy. It’s an odd thing to say, but ever since it took over my life ten years ago, it’s always been on my mind. It has changed me physically, emotionally and spiritually. Many of my experiences cannot be adequately explained to the general population, no matter how much someone wants to understand.
My life seems to be moving in fits and starts these days. Two steps forward, one step back.
If you have been following my journey for any length of time, you know this is nothing new for me. It comes with the territory of living with an adult-onset muscle disease. Pick your favorite metaphor – life with this disease is a roller coaster, a series of peaks and valleys, a twisting and turning road. Left, right, up, down – the path is never straight or level. The lack of continuity is often maddening, and always frustrating.
I’ve learned how to keep a level head through it all, but sometimes, life can be too much. Sometimes, no matter how hard I fight, I have to admit defeat. Not a lost war, but a lost battle.
Note: This post is a supplement to an article I wrote for the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Quest magazine in January 2018, which you can find here.
I have also written about the importance of role models in this post.
I have had many role models over the years who have helped me come to grips with my muscle disease. Some I have come to know personally; others I hope to meet one day. And of course, there are those I will never get the chance to meet.
The goal of this page is to list all the people who have helped me in some way. Each person, at some point in my life, helped pick me up when I was feeling down, and I am forever grateful.
Eventually, time-willing, I will write a blog post about each person to give them their due credit. As of right now, I will list them out, and provide a link to their story or website, so that you can learn more about them. If you are having a tough time, I highly encourage you to Google them or click on some of the links below. Contrary to how it seems sometimes, there are many extraordinary people out there in the world that we can learn from and emulate. Continue reading “My Role Models”→
Last Friday, I found myself scribbling down notes while listening in on a work call. Every few seconds, I would jot down an action item for follow-up, with an occasional inane doodle in between. I know what you’re thinking – it’s 2017, why am I still writing down my notes? You’ll be happy to know that I use my computer (Evernote) most of the time, it just so happens that, when I want to brainstorm ideas, write down a quick list of to do’s, or take notes passively while listening in on a conversation, nothing beats pen and paper.
Which is why this latest discovery was all the more unsettling.
A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to have my patient story recorded by Annie Brewster at Health Story Collaborative. The end product will be a 10-15 minute audio clip chronicling my journey over the last nine years, from my first symptoms to present day. It was a fantastic experience, and I’m glad I reached out to Annie on a whim after watching her TED talk.
Towards the end of our call, I asked about CommonHeath, a healthcare blog run by WBUR, Boston’s NPR station. While researching Annie’s background before our call, I noticed that she had written several pieces on the site, and was involved with curating patient stories. I asked her if my story would be a good candidate for CommonHealth, and she said it would be.
Encouraged, I reached out to Carey Goldberg, the editor of CommonHealth. One thing led to another, and, with the help of Carey and another editor, Ginger Marshall, we decided I would write about my thought process in accepting that I needed to get a wheelchair.
It’s a difficult subject to write about. First off, it’s a heavy topic, fraught with emotion. Second, it is difficult to convey, in 1,200 words, what it feels like to come to this acceptance. I could write 10,000 words on the topic and it would be incomplete.
Difficulties aside, I am proud of how the piece came out. The title isn’t my favorite, but I understand why it is so straightforward and blunt. It clearly states what the article is about, in no uncertain terms. As an opinion piece, you are either interested in reading more, or you’re not.
It was a thrill to see my article on the CommonHealth website and the WBUR Facebook page, sites that thousands of people frequent on a daily basis. More importantly, I was heartened by the positive reaction of other patients, and how those going through a similar situation could relate to what I wrote. The truth is, I was initially reluctant to write the article, mainly because it is a touchy and emotionally-charged subject. I know how I feel about the experience, but it is difficult to put into words. What if someone takes something I wrote the wrong way, or reads into it something I didn’t intend? Despite my initial hesitation, I decided it was a risk worth taking.
The article had a good run on social media, but, like everything else on the internet, I figured it would fade away into obscurity.
Or so I thought.
Yesterday, around midday, I was checking the WordPress app on my iPhone, casually glancing at Sidewalks and Stairwells’ page views for the day. On a good day, I usually get 20-25 views on my website. I checked the app: 200 views. I wish you could have seen my face!
Initially, I thought my site was being flooded by bot traffic. Then I saw a comment on my front page mentioning they found my site via NPR, and it hit me – my post got picked up by NPR’s social media accounts.
I checked, and there it was at the top of the NPR Facebook page, which has nearly 6 million followers. This article that I wrote, partly for my own healing, was now being read by millions of people.
The comments started flooding in. I was hopeful my article would have a positive impact on people, but part of me was nervous that there might be some negative, troll-ish comments that would make me regret being so vulnerable (I know, I know, I should never read the comments section). Fortunately, there were only a couple bad ones, and they were so comically off-base that I found them more amusing than anything. You truly can never please everyone.
By the end of the day, I had over 1,100 views. Yesterday, I had 450 more. 1,500+ in 2 days. Not bad!
I have been hoping and praying for a day where my blog, my little slice of the internet, gets seen by a wide audience. I don’t want this because I want to become famous (I am an introvert after all), rather, my hope is that the more people who read this site, the more people I might be able to help. I share my story, warts and all, because I want it to resonate with others.
I am grateful for the outpouring of support by complete strangers around the world. Overwhelmingly, the response to my article was positive. Patients shared their own struggles, and readers who were not disabled valued the perspective I brought to the table. If I can use my journey, which was once an intolerable nightmare, to inspire and inform, that is a good thing.
I hope yesterday is just the beginning, the big break I have been waiting for. I am only one person, but I know the impact one person, with the right message, at the right time, can have on someone’s life. I am here to pay it forward.
It checks out at 115 pages, single-spaced, give or take a few placeholders and incoherent ramblings.
This is a big deal for me. I’ve attempted to write my story many times, always failing. This time, though, is different. I am motivated, and it just feels like the right time. My transition into a wheelchair is nearly complete. It is a natural bookend to my journey.
The key to writing a book, I’ve found through trial and error, is to take a seemingly insurmountable project and break it down into manageable pieces. My immediate goal was to write out, chronologically, all the important events that have taken place in my life between 2008 and the present day. I have accomplished that. The next step is to go through what I’ve written again, and start to turn it into a story. Then in subsequent steps, I’ll add more detail, quotations, and finally, give it one final run-through.