Model: Allison McCool
When diagnosed with my disability at age 47, I was more relieved than upset. At least there was a name for my disease that validated my symptoms, and it was Progressive Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis (PRMS). This is a less common form of MS. I immersed myself in selfeducation about the disease and began water therapy twice weekly, becoming the teacher to anyone who would listen. Utilizing the internet and MS organizations, friendships developed with other people with MS, and I realized the advantage of support groups. Being involved in athletics all my life transferred into golfing until
balance deficiencies caused me to stop playing. An expo by the YMCA & Pennsylvania Center for Adapted Sports (PCAS) introduced people with disabilities to available adapted sports such as kayaking, cycling, basketball, skiing, hockey, tennis, swimming, martial arts, square dancing, and more! Seeing people with disabilities having fun and demonstrating their chosen sports was an eye-opener. The expo touted that I could continue to golf as a disabled person; indeed, I had the opportunity to sit on my Rollator and take some swings with an adapted 5 Iron. Loretta Cohen, a PCAS volunteer, introduced me to sculling on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, and she developed a cycling program in which I was excited to participate! Over a twoyear period and experimenting with several cycle styles, we finally refined one to perfection for my needs. Cycling quickly became one of my favorite sports while I watched in awe as others with various disabilities also became successfully active. With my worsening condition, further cycling adaptations were made with the addition of a $10k specialized recumbent cycle recently purchased for the program. It was perfect for me, making me feel very special out on the trail. The bike looks cool, others walking and bicycling comment on what a fantastic cycle it is, and I feel cool and non-disabled when I am cycling in it, even though I have adaptations with straps and foam pads to facilitate my use of the bike. At least once before my ride concludes, my goal is to be able to say, “On your left,” to alert others on the trail that I am passing them! Through my support systems, I have been able to attend cultural and entertaining events regularly. There’s no sitting around at home for me; I stay active! I rely on others to transport me, but I still feel able. I hope that others begin to view me and all physically disabled people from a different perspective, as humans with bodies that merely work differently.
“Life is always a significant challenge for us, but we still have feelings, wish to be loved by others, and can think and converse.”
Photographed by Tony Rocco