Teen CP (TeenCerebralPalsy.com)
(Published Originally 11.06.15 on ARTISCEND.COM)
Written By J. Randolph
The phrase “mind over matter” is often used to motivate; it implies that if you apply your thoughts and energy to something, you can achieve whatever you set out to accomplish.
However for the 10,000 infants who are diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy every year in the US, controlling reality from your mind is far easier said than done. Cerebral Palsy (CP) broadly refers to impaired movement disorders caused by damage to the developing brain.
Katy Fetters was born prematurely with a severe bleed on both sides of her brain. While the effects of the condition differ for everyone, Fetters experienced muscle tightness and restricted movement on the left side of her body–symptoms that many know all too well. While most adolescents retreat into themselves when symptoms of CP present everyday challenges, Fetters was very candid about her struggles.
“I was raised to be open about it”, said Fetters who would always explain herself to people staring at her or questioning her about how she would walk. At the young age of 17, Katy began to write about her experiences at the request of a friend. Admittedly, she was more concerned with friendship than a crusade to enlighten the world. “It was selfish initially; I just wanted to connect with someone”, said Fetters.
In 2009, she founded TeenCerebralPalsy.com (TeenCP). She used it as an outlet to share her daily experiences. And kids from all over the world contacted her to share their own. The impact of authentically sharing her story was enormous but she still wasn’t entirely aware of it. “A lot of it was subconscious”, she continued. “It’s very hard socializing nowadays especially as a teenager and [the website] was an outlet.” However, through simply telling her story, Katy eventually realized that what she was doing was not only a way to bond with others, but also a way to impact lives.
In 2013, United Cerebral Palsy awarded their annual Outstanding Youth Award to Fetters. It was at that moment that she understood with greater perspective just how much her voice meant. “That’s when I realized I could impact people’s lives. I realized instead of just making it about me, my prom dress and makeup, I could help someone”.
Now 23 and a college grad, Fetters has returned to her passion project on TeenCP. “I was focused on graduating from school”, she admitted. But picking up right where she left off, she has updated the original site, appeared as a moderator for social media outreach events, and has set her sights on advocacy and public speaking. She hopes to inspire the next generation of voices and as for TeenCP, eventually pass the torch.
When asked what advice she’d give to her younger self, Fetters replied, “I would say relax. I remember having so much anxiety about what I was going through but through high-school and college I realized everyone else is going through the same things. Don’t think so much.” She continued, “This might sound bad, but I think everyone wants to be normal, everyone wants to be loved and accepted”.
Through her story, she has made feelings of acceptance and normalcy a reality for thousands of children. Because of her, many who couldn’t share their own experiences have a voice. Although she says she wants to be “normal”, there is nothing normal about this young lady’s enormous capacity for kindness. Just by sharing her story, she touched countless lives. But by committing herself to channeling her voice into something positive for others and by investing her time and energy into a cause that was near to her, she has become a leader and an inspiration.
“If I can affect people and alleviate some of the stress or insecurity in their life, then that’s what I want to do”, said Fetters. Her sentiments reflect a perspective of purpose and compassion we can all aspire for.