When I was 16, I was halfway down a dark road, and it felt like there was no turning back for me. I was trapped. I couldn't seem to see any kind of light at the end of the tunnel.
I remember the day that would lead to my life being changed... forever. My Mom and I had just seen a documentary on TLC about Neurofibromatosis, and you guessed it, Reggie Bibbs was the star! I was amazed at this mans courage, his resiliency, his passion. I admired his honesty and his desire to change the face of NF. She later came to me one night, and handed me a piece of paper as she said "This will change your life Courtney Anne!" I stared at the piece of paper with a blank look on my face. How was this paper going to change my life? It's a piece of paper! However, after I read through it, I started to see a hint of light at the end of that dark road.
There was going to be an NF symposium in Calgary, and Reggie Bibbs was going to be the guest speaker! I had never met another individual who was living with NF, so this was going to be a very special experience for me. I was very anxious, I didn't necessarily want to share my story, I didn't still didn't want people to know. I didn't want to talk to too many people. I simply went because I wanted to feel like I belonged somewhere (and my Mom promised to take me shopping!)
I remember arriving at the hotel just like it was yesterday. I had a whole lot of mixed feelings. I was excited however by the fact that there were at least 50 other individuals in that hotel that share the same genetic abnormality that I had. It was comforting. I finally would have people to talk to that would understand me and the fears and ambiguity that I was dealing with on a day to day basis. I was starting to see more light at the end of that dark road.
My Mom and I were anxious to head up to our room to unpack, and as we were traveling up the elevator I said "Wouldn't it be cool if Reggie Bibbs was on the same hotel floor as us?!?" My Mom and I both agreed that it would be pretty cool, but highly doubted we would get anywhere near him until tomorrow's symposium. Boy were we wrong!
As we walked down the hall, someone's door opened and two people stepped out of the room. I. Was. Shocked. It was Reggie Bibbs! I must have stared for what seemed like hours, because I could tell he was uncomfortable with my rather intense gaze. Then I realized what I was doing. Reggie didn't know me or my story. He didn't know that I knew who he was. So what did I do? The only thing that seemed to be logical at the time. I screamed his name and ran down the hall and threw my arms around him. That light at the end of the road now? It got a little brighter at that exact moment.
Reggie, my Mom, and myself shared a few moments of time with each other before heading our separate ways, but we promised to meet up sometime the next day at the symposium. The excitement was mounting as the night stretched on and it seemed like forever until tomorrow finally came.
The speech Reggie delivered during the symposium that next day is what changed my life. Saved my life rather. I learned more in a mere 15 minutes of him talking, than I had tried to teach myself in the 3 years leading up to this. I learned that it was okay for me to be different. It made me who I was, and regardless of how much I wanted to change it, I would never be able to get rid of my condition. I was unfortunately going to have to deal with tumors, chronic pain, and ambiguity for the duration of my life, but Reggie taught me that I still needed to live. I had lost the meaning of life before that symposium, I was angry, and mad, and upset that I was given the short straw and put through hell. But Reggie Bibbs, you turned that short straw into something unstoppable!
So now looking down that road that was so dark before? All I could see was light!