For an audio version go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcqKgRFU0w0
In 2005, I was running a chronic pain support group in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows. We had a great group of people who came out on a monthly basis to share their stories, laugh together, and learn to live with chronic pain and disability. One of the topics that came up the most was the fact that the members did not feel understood. They did not see themselves reflected within their community. They did not feel there was a voice speaking for them, for their lives, their experiences, their struggles. They saw occasional stories about people with chronic pain and/or disability in the media, but usually the stories placed the person in a victim or hero role. They wanted to see more stories about the everyday people with chronic pain and/or disability who weren’t victims, but who weren’t completing amazing feats either. As a person who lives with chronic pain and disability, I agreed that we were not well represented to the community, through the media, or in general. So the question remained, who was going to tell our stories? I decided I would.
During this period I had grown to know the editor of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Times, the local newspaper. I used the newspaper to advertise the meeting dates of the chronic pain support group, as well as to promote the power soccer team I was coaching at the time. I decided to approach the editor about my idea for a column. I explained that there were a lot of people in our community with health issues; I said that oftentimes people did not talk about their own chronic pain or disability, but once the topic was raised there was a relief in their ability to share their story. I asked to be given the opportunity to choose a story on a monthly basis regarding a local resident with health issues, chronic pain and/or disability, and tie their story to a local event such as a fundraiser, support group or walk/run. The editor agreed to give me an opportunity to share those stories, and I remain thankful to him.
My column ran between 2005 to 2006. I then moved out of the community and stopped writing the column. Then, in 2008, when Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows was chosen to be the host of the 2009 B.C. Disability Games, of which I was involved, I once again started my column, this time with a focus on the athletes that would be competing in the 2009 games.
During the run of the Abilities column, I continually heard from people who were happy to see themselves, and their experiences, reflected in the local media. I heard from readers who used the column as a way to initiate conversation within their own relationships about chronic pain and disability. And I heard from people who had a loved one with chronic pain and/or disability who had began to better understand the challenges their loved one faced. I was very happy to know that my column sparked conversation, understanding, and awareness. I was also gratified to know that people clipped out the articles as a reminder that they were not alone in their experiences with chronic pain and/or disability. I hope that some of the same conversations, awareness, and understanding will stem from this Living with Disability and Chronic Pain blog.
When I started this blog I had several people ask for me to include my columns. I am so happy to know that years later people remember the stories that I shared, and that they want me to continue to share them with a wider audience.
I have chosen to show the articles unedited. Many of these stories were written for specific events, so I have crossed out information in the articles if the information is no longer valid. In the audio versions I have chosen to simply skip this information. Some of the articles are about groups or organizations and the information is still valid; in these cases I have left the information as is.