Model: Debbie Brecker
Cerebral Palsy, Age 53
I came into the world 7 weeks early, weighing only 3 pounds, then 2 pounds, at a time when most premature babies that size did not survive. After a month in an incubator my parents were able to take me home. A year later the diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy was given, with the effect of spasticity in the 2 lower limbs. With a lot of physical therapy and supremely dedicated parents, I took my first steps at three. My mother made sure that the mantra in my house was “treat her like everyone else.” Consequently, I grew up with the attitude of “I can do anything I set my mind to. Just watch me.”
I’ve encountered a lot of stares from people looking at my unique walking gait; however, even as a kid I inherently knew that if I smiled brightly I could get people to see beyond my disability and see me. I have always had an indomitable spirit and enthusiasm to live life to the fullest. As a teenager my response to someone who said she felt sorry for me was “don’t feel bad for me because I’m going to suck the juice out of life.” And, my declaration at 16 years of age became my truth.
After graduating college with honors, I set about my dream of becoming an advertising copywriter. A few years later, a Master’s in Counseling followed as I was driven to work in the helping profession. Educational and career counseling was my passion, working at both the high school and community college settings
With a love of travel and an adventurous spirit, I’ve experienced twenty glorious years of travel to many destinations across six of the seven continents.
Although I accomplished many things, my athletic nature did not come alive until I moved across the country to Arizona. This athletic being started expressing herself: from taking short hikes in the mountains to wonderful adventures that included adaptive snow skiing in New Zealand, training and participating in a 10K Walk in the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia, hiking along the Great Wall of China, and riding my recumbent trike in the A1A Fort Lauderdale Marathon.
Despite all these adventures and accomplishments I was missing something. I had a hard time embracing my beauty. Adolescence can be hard on a teenager with a disability and some of those hard feelings stayed with me into adulthood. So, my experience with Bold Beauty Project has been very transformative and healing. I am so honored to be part of this worthwhile project that showcases the beauty, attractiveness, talent and strength of women with disabilities.
– “The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest & most beautiful of all.” – Rishikajain
Photographed by Sandra Dohnert