Posted by jennifer gibson on Thursday, August 31, 2017 Under: September 2017

I recently stumbled across one of my mother's articles that she had written in 1993 where she talks about living with a disability - I thought that this was worthwhile sharing. She was a strong and independent woman, working full time as a psychologist and raising two teenagers. It's an insightful perspective into her life at that time and still applies to this day. 

While I was in high school, she had back surgery that left her with a permanent disability. No one really knows why her surgery failed, it had caused more pain and nerve damage than before she went in to resolve a herniated disc. Today, I know that it's hereditary since I was recently diagnosed with the same problem. Fortunately, I chose the path of physiotherapy, bed rest and painkillers. But it has created new limitations in my life that I didn't have before. My ability to drive long distances has been dramatically shortened and I am longer allowed to do anything in sports that could potentially re-injure my spine such as direct falls onto my back. Sitting for long periods of time is now a big no-no. Overall, it has forced me to make a lot of changes in my day to day activities and re-evaluate my life in terms of what I can do. 

Interestingly, going through this particular experience so soon after my mother's death, has shown me a glimpse of what her life was like. Even though I already have an existing disability with a severe hearing loss, adding another one on top of that created an even more dramatic challenge for me. I can say that stubbornness does run in the family, trust me on this. I knew that my mother was determined to live a normal life as much as possible, regardless of her disability.

It wasn't until recent years that it became even more debilitating for her when she developed other health issues such as rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren's disease. It damaged the joints in her hands and feet, deforming them to the point where she couldn't enjoy activities such as knitting. She had a lot of trouble finding shoes that fit her feet and required braces to provide support for her hands. Even then, she worked hard to follow her passion which included watercolour painting, going for short walks on her property, and spending time with her grandchildren. It wasn't easy and she was often in a great deal of pain afterwards. This not only took a toll on her physical body, it also had an impact on her mind and soul.

In her article, she touches on these topics while striving to be self-sufficient. She talks about trying to define herself, not only as a mother and a psychologist, but also also as a person with needs. Mom had always been a creative person and a deeply intellectual being, and that was something she did not want to lose. She wanted to maintain her sense of purpose and individuality. Her goal was to live her life the way she wanted despite her disability. She was determined not to let it stop her even though there were many barriers in the society that made it more difficult for her to be a part of this world. 

As someone who was born with a severe disability, I knew what she was talking about. I'm presented with many challenges and obstacles on a daily basis and have learned a long time ago that it's up to me to do something about it. If I want to move forward in life, I have to find a way around it. 

Mom taught me the value of following my heart and staying strong. Despite the incredible pain that she was in on a daily basis, she still managed to persevere and rise above it. She inspired everyone in her life, and still continues to do that today through her words and memories. 

Her article, entitled "Margins are not for cowards", is featured in the book "Living the Edges", here is the purchase link:

Here are the links for her article entitled "Margins are not for cowards": 

You can download the PDF to read the article here:

Margins Are Not For Cowards - Canadian Woman Studies

In : September 2017 

Tags: "dr. cheryl gibson" "margins are not for cowards" article  feminist  disability   
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