When I was first diagnosed with Becker muscular dystrophy, the obvious question was, “So how long am I going to live?” With no internet and a limited amount of medical books at the local library, getting an answer to this question became difficult. The fact of the matter is that with Becker muscular dystrophy, as with many muscular dystrophies, the life expectancy can span a wide range of years. I have learned to accept the fact that my life will be shorter and leverage this knowledge to help me accomplish as much as possible.
The truth is that nobody — healthy or otherwise — knows exactly when they will die. A teenager who is perfectly healthy could drop dead tomorrow. Someone with Becker muscular dystrophy could live to the average age for a human being. Both have smaller probabilities than average, but no matter who you are there’s no certainty about when you will die.
Because of this, I find it easy to ignore worries about dying early. I won’t say it never enters my mind, but at the times when it does, I find it actually motivates me to live a higher quality life. For example, in 2007 I had the opportunity to travel and play wheelchair tennis tournaments around the world. I don’t think I was necessarily skilled enough to be a legitimate competitor, but I had the strength to handle both playing tennis and traveling independently. Knowing full well that my circumstances could change in a few years, I chose to play as much as I could afford. I won a few matches here and there, saw a lot of great places, and met a lot of great people.
I think many people who are healthy take their health for granted. They put off doing things they dream about doing because they assume they will have time later in life to fulfill their dreams. There is no urgency for them.
But for me, there is urgency. There’s urgency to cram a full life into a shorter timeframe. Keeping this in mind is powerful. It can help you to take advantage of a situation you might otherwise put off. It can push you to take that trip, start that business, take that class, or do whatever it is that you’ve had your mind on.