When I was a little girl in West Virginia, I would spend hours riding my bike at the family farm. If it was too dark to ride outside, I’d ride in circles in the big garage while grandma was canning in the boot room. Without discussing it with me, grandpa took the training wheels off my bike. Even though I was an excellent bike rider, I didn’t feel like I was ready to ride without my training wheels and I was upset that he took them off without talking to me first. I stopped riding my bike. I can’t remember how much time passed before I decided I was ready to try riding my bike without the training wheels, but it was important to me that I decided when I was ready. No one else could make that decision.
After I was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome in 2017, I was more concerned about fighting for my life than thinking about what life would be like. When I made it through the worst of it and was transferred to intensive physical therapy, I was excited to start getting “back to normal.” I had been through physical therapy for sports injuries so I was thinking it would take a few months but I’d be “back to normal” in no time.
A year and two months later, I’ve realized that this is my new “normal.” Sometimes I still get angry about the GBS or I’ll get frustrated with the neuropathy, twitching, lack of stamina (I call it “hitting a GBS wall”) or one of the many other issues that I deal with daily. But it’s ok to be angry or upset sometimes, especially after being hit with such a punch like GBS. The important thing is to keep living. This includes working to get back to what you loved doing before GBS. It will not be the same, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Family and friends will try to push you and maybe even remove your training wheels, but it’s important that you listen to your body because you’re the only one that knows when you’re ready.
Yesterday I rode my bike again for the first time since GBS. It was a lot harder than it used to be and I couldn’t ride as long as I used to, but it felt amazing. I felt like that little girl that used to spend hours riding around the farm. I’m looking forward to spending more time on my bike and building back the muscles in my legs. I’m glad I took off my figurative training wheels and got back on my bike when I was good and ready. I hope you can take off your training wheels too, but only when you’re ready.