Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Letter to My 80 Year Old Self

Dear 80-year-old Shawna Mattinson,

Hey you, it’s been awhile. You’ve made it this far. It looks like you’ve done a lot of stuff in your life that you may have thought wouldn’t happen decades ago. Looking back, I’m sure you would not change a thing because look at what you’ve achieved.

Right now, at 34 years of age, I am recovering from a stroke that has hindered my progress and dreams of walking on my own one day. It happened out of nowhere and, just like that, I had doctors telling me what I could and could not do. Lately I have felt like there have been constant roadblocks to my dreams and goals, a feeling that destroys me because of how independent and determined I am (which you know of course).  Will I walk again? Are the doctors wrong about my possibility of walking, as they have been in the past? Are you walking right now, and I just can’t see beyond this moment?

I hope that you are able to walk right now, although you are super old. Also, I hope that you’ve done all the things that I am hoping to accomplish right now (and many more things that I can’t predict, knowing you). I wonder if you’ve written other books beyond the two that I’ve written (and am writing) now, and if you will continue writing until you’ve passed. Also, have you continued your work on that project with that guy and become one of the main voices on his website for others with disabilities? Has your constant blogging and website work that you worked so hard on in your twenties and thirties opened more doors for you? I hope that it has, because right now it seems like I’ve started a million small projects and I hope they amount to the bigger picture one day (or I’ll throw my computer out my window!). What about the accessibility project? Did your videos of crashing into inaccessible buildings lead to people making changes with the city? What other projects have you come up with over the years, and did your focus change as you entered your fourties, fifties, sixties, seventies, and now (freaking eighties!?).

Oh yes, and what about your dream of travelling the world? At 34 years old, I have currently been around Canada (British Columbia, Nova Scotia, P.E.I., New Brunswick), Mexico, Hawaii, the Dominican Republic, Alaska. I went on a cruise from New Zealand (Where I jumped off the Sky Tower) all the way back to Vancouver. Some of the spots I stopped at on the way were Wellington, Sydney, Port Vila, and Pago Pago.  Knowing that you’re over forty years ahead of me, I know you’ve seen so much more and I can’t wait to experience all the places I did not know I would be. How was the cruise that you went on to the Caribbean when you were 35 years old? I can’t wait. Did you see all of Europe (especially Paris, Rome?). Did you say hi to your friend in Denmark like you wanted to?

How is your family? What are your nieces and nephews up to now? Have they grown into the people you imagined they’d be? How are your sisters? Are your sisters looking out for you now that your parents are gone? Is that what they wanted? Do you guys have fun being old together? Do you live together in a nursing home? At 80 you’re no longer required to follow societal rules and norms. I hope you take advantage of getting to say and do whatever the heck you want without consequence. Do you feel worn out? Have you fulfilled all the dreams you discovered along the way? I hope so. You and I both know that the end must be near now. I hope you’re almost falling apart from all the adventures you’ve had. It has been one heck of a ride, I know!

I know you have a lot of friends in your life, but I hope you have someone to share your hopes and dreams with too. In fact, I hope all your adventures have had your closest friends by your side.

Well 80 year old self, I guess I’m left with more questions for you than anything. I’m so curious about the life that lies before me. I hope you know that you are an inspiration to me. I may not meet you in this life but I am reaching for you, and I won’t give up. I hope that you are reaching for me too, maybe we will meet in the middle. Maybe you are already watching over me like my grandma. I will do my best with every bit of goodness I’ve been given to make a difference in this world. I will not leave here before I’ve made my mark and lived out my purpose. There is so much to do, don’t let me do it all on my own.

I love you,

Shawna Mattinson

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


I want to talk about parenthood. I was fortunate to have wonderful parents who looked past my disability and saw their daughter instead. Since birth, my parents believed in me when my doctors were quick to deny the possibility that I would have dreams, goals, and a life. To my family, I was a normal little girl who was going to attend school, participate in activities like swimming and Girl Guides, and play and fight with my siblings as any little girl would. Yes, there were learning curves that I had to face along the way, but my parents were always there to physically and emotionally support me.

But what about being a parent when you have a disability? I often find myself thinking about having a family and raising a child, an idea that a lot of people do not consider or find possible for people with disabilities. Although I fully support the idea that people with disabilities can raise children, I do not know if this is in the cards for me. I think that it is very important to be physically able to support your children, and I can not picture myself picking up my baby when nobody is around, feeding them with a bottle, changing a diaper, pushing them on a swing, or being able to help them in every way that a parent would. To me, parenting seems to be the one life choice that I feel my disability truly hinders me even when I take on other life events and activities without accepting defeat.

When I think about what kind of parent I would be if I did not have cerebral palsy, I see myself as a reflection of my parents. Whether or not my child had a disability, I would give my child opportunities to do what they love and motivate them to achieve their dreams. However, I would not give my children handouts of whatever they wanted! I am a firm believer of people earning what they are given, so my children would probably have to work as hard as I did to get what they wanted.  So, imaginary children, expect chores and responsibilities. My children wouldn’t be drowning in work, though; I would make sure that they grew up in a playful household (the sarcasm would not leave just because I was a parent!).

So if you are a parent or are thinking of having children one day, please do not take this life choice for granted because some of us would love the opportunity if they had the choice. Love your kids, don’t give up on their dreams and goals,  teach independence and respect, and hopefully they will grow up to raise their own children in the same way.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

So I Just Had A Mini Stroke...

Hi Everybody,

Welcome to summer! It is a beautiful day here in Calgary, and I hope everybody is having a good start to their week. I am writing to you all to give you an update on what happened to me this past two weeks:

Two weeks ago, on a Saturday, I was getting ready to go out to a movie with my mom, sister, and my sister's kids. However, I didn't end up going because I started to feel really dizzy while waiting for my mom. It felt like the room was spinning around really fast and I felt nauseous. I moved to the floor to stabilize myself before I started to throw up, and thankfully my roommate was there. She asked me if I wanted her to call 911 and I did not want that. Stupid me! She decided to phone my mom instead and my mom insisted in calling 911. My mom entered the condo and said that she thought I was experiencing vertigo because she had had it before. The ambulance then arrived and asked about my symptoms before putting me on a gurney and taking me to the hospital.

Initially, I thought I was only going to be at the hospital for a couple of hours and that all would be okay. In reality, the hospital staff wanted to run some tests and I was booked for a CT scan to see what was really going on. Once the results were in, they told me that I had a mini stroke and that it may have been the result of numerous falls I had had over the years (in which I had hit my head). They told me that they needed to do more tests and keep an eye on me. Looks like I wasn't going home any time soon! I told my mom that if something bad happened while I was there, that I wanted her and my dad to let me go because living a life in a bed is not the life I want to live. At two in the morning, I finally got to sleep before the doctors woke me up to tell me I was being admitted and that I had to move to the tenth floor (so much for sleeping). Once I was up there they had to do another test and I was given a room with multiple patients already in it.

In the morning, I wanted to go to the bathroom but I had no energy to get myself up. The nurses asked me if I could go in a bedpan and I refused, so they went away and came back and they said they'd put me on a catheter. I was so tired and couldn't sleep, couldn't eat, and was scared that if I ate I would throw it up. I had a lot of visitors though, my parents, my sister, my roommate, some support staff, my best friend. There were many tears.

The next day, I had to do another CT scan for my head and the doctor said you have two options: Your brain could heal on its own and you would have to take a baby aspirin - or it will not heal and they would have to perform an operation. I was put on the eleventh floor to be watched, which was bigger and nicer because I had my own room with a privacy curtain that I shared with one other person (not multiple). The doctor came in on Wednesday and let me know I was doing fine and he was moving me back downstairs. They eventually wanted me to stay for one more day because they wanted me to get up on my own in my chair, but we didn't have a place for my wheelchair because I was back in the room with four other people. So on Friday morning, I went to see the physiotherapist and they said “If you can get up and out of your chair, you can go home.” I was scared because I had no idea if I could do anything since I had been in bed all week. Thankfully, I did it and I finally got home! Being in the hospital really took a toll on me so all I was able to do was lay on the couch and go to the bathroom.

 Now, I am doing fine, but I have constant headaches and still feel a little dizzy from time to time. My dream of walking right now is halted, as I was told that it's too dangerous right now. I don't know if it will be like this forever, but right now I'm sad to say that I have to focus on other goals. I also have lost a bit of independence right now, which all of you know is driving me crazy, but I have to do what I have to do until I get better. Thank you everyone for all your support and well wishes!