2015? ... Already?!

As if it's 2015! I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year. As always, Christmas Day morning came, and there was only one thing standing in my way ... sellotape! I'm starting to think my family wrap my presents in as much sellotape as possible so they can laugh at me!

So, you all seemed to like 'The Blog Post of the Year', or so you said! This blog post is also going to contain quite a lot - quite a few of you submitted bits and bobs and unfortunately I had already hit the 'publish' button. I'll also discuss my 'Twitter debate', which happened just before the New Year. Some of you will know what I'm going on about, and for those of you who don't, all will be revealed. It produced a mixture of reactions - some of you found it absolutely laughable (like myself!), and others were on the ceiling!

I'll also talk about what is ahead in 2015. And on that point, I'll introduce the CP Teens UK Events Committee that I 'recruited' over the Christmas period. They are all close friends of mine and I refer to them as the 'dream team' as they are truly behind the events that I have 'thought up' in my head for CP Teens UK, and they are helping make them happen for you in 2015. So, they are:

- Sophie Clarke

- Laura Parkes

- Laura Webb

- Adam Rogers

- Carly Tait

- India Hollingworth

- Nikki Charlesworth

I am not releasing any information as of yet, but we are currently working on a very special event for towards the end of the year! I do want to scream and shout about it, and I've just had another email that makes it even more exciting! But, my lips are sealed for now. I am so grateful for all of their help, without them CP Teens UK could not provide the events for you!

So, just before New Year, I was on Twitter and I met a guy through my involvement in Athletics called Dean in May 2014. I now know Dean quite well, and some of you may remember my blog about him. Dean has Cerebral Palsy, and his story is quite remarkable. Unlike you and me who have all had Cerebral Palsy from day 1/from a very early age, Dean has only had it since being in his twenties - he was a soldier (appologies if this isn't the correct title!) and he was shot in the head, the bullet literally went through his brain causing brain damage/Cerebral Palsy. So, I was suddenly aware of an individual attacking him on Twitter for being disabled! As a 'fellow CP'er' I thought I'd give her a piece of my mind ... and I was still there 2 and a half hours later - my keyboard was practically on fire!

I would name and shame, but I don't want any comebacks on myself and CP Teens UK. Not because I believe I'm in the wrong for one minute, but we now live a world where things can become out of control online. However, you are more than welcome to go on my personal Twitter (@TheActualEllie) and see for yourself who was involved. So, this individual believed that 'all disabled people should be terminated at birth'. I couldn't help but say 'I'm Ellie, I am 20 years old, I am a University student, I compete in Athletics at a national level and I run a successful non-profit organisation ... oh, and, I have Cerebral Palsy' - my point being I have a good life, in fact I love my life, why should I have been terminated at my birth because I wasn't quite 'perfect'?

We'll be here all day if I quote the entire 'debate', but the consensus from the individual was:

a) We shouldn't even be having this debate as I shouldn't be here as I am disabled

b) The world would be a better place if people with disabilities didn't exist

c) Why on earth did my parents keep me?

d) My parents must be so 'miserable'

e) Disabled people are a burden

Right, okay then! I am lucky in the fact that people like this literally reduce me to tears of laughter and make me more dertimined to go out and live my life. I'm sorry if this has upset you, my advice is to just try to laugh at her! I can assure you that we will all get much further than her in life with a stinking attitude like that! My argument was that a life is a life, regardless of disabilities etc. Without getting too deep, I argued that the only person who should make the choice between life and death is the individual themselves. Like a lot of cases of Cerebral Palsy, mine was caused by a cock up during my birth, which apparently virtually left me on death's door (not that I can remember any of this!) - I chose to live and if everyone went with this individual's point of view, I wouldn't have had that chance ... sorry, enough of the deep conversation now!

She also asked 'So, you have Cerebral Palsy, but what is your disability?' - I honestly do not know if this was a wind up or a genuine question! I tell you what though, if it was a genuine question, there's some serious lack of education out there! I always knew disability awareness in the general public isn't that great, but seriously? Another question that fired me up was 'Have you got learning disabilities?'. Nothing winds me up more than the assumptions that come with my Cerebral Palsy. I know that some people with Cerebral Palsy do have learning disabilities, but as she apparently didn't even know that Cerebral Palsy was a disability, she wouldn't have known this. Friends of my Mum and Dad have even been known to ask 'How does Ellie cope at school?', which usually got the reply of 'Absolutely fine' with a rather puzzled look!

I then got accused of virtually faking my disability as I am an 'athlete'. The fact that I do a Paralympic specific sport, it is a seated sport and I am an 'F32' i.e. the scale runs from 31 to 38, with 31 being the classification for athletes with the most severe forms of Cerebral Palsy, is obviously irrelevant *rolls the eyes*. My response was 'where were you during the London 2012 Paralympics?', but thinking about it, she was most probably under a rock for the duration due to her beliefs of disabled people shouldn't be alive! Her response was, 'being an athlete makes you boring' ... love, you didn't answer my question! Maybe she has learning disabilities? Which in her world = termination! If any of you wish to report her to Twitter, be my guest! I have reported her, and so have numerous other people, including Dean, but no action seems to have been taken!

Anyway, moving on! Lots of you have been contacting me saying that you have received your University offers ... well done to each and every one of you! And, a lot of you have also said 'you never talk about University anymore!'. Well, I can promise I'm still there, and on that note I will do a small update! Not to sound boring, but there's not much to report! I suppose it has just become 'a thing' in my life, just like school was, and I mean that in a very positive way - back in September, it was a massive, massive thing, so much so I spoke about it in most blog posts from the beginning of August through to roughly mid-October. As some of you have pointed out, I no longer really talk about it, and my main concern is now 9am flipping lectures (hate them!)! I now go without really thinking about it. And that is something I would draw upon for all of you - you will all be absolutely terrified right now, quaking in your boots, and you'll have all the 'normal' student questions as well as the added disability-related questions, such as "will I receive the help and support that is right for me?", but you have to go through this stage to get to the stage that I am now at, if that makes sense? September through to the end of October/early November tested me on every level, but I am now so glad that I did it and didn't give in to myself, and I encourage you all to do this. It would have been easy to:

a) Not have even gone in the first place

b) Dropped out at the end of Induction Week

c) Dropped out mid-October when everything seemed to go pear-shaped

But, I'm glad I didn't! My advice would be, you'll most probably seriously doubt what you're even doing going to University, you'll doubt your own ability to 'cope' (both physically & mentally!), not everything will run smoothly because that's life, but as they say, once you've climbed a mountain, it's a beautiful view!

I had to smile in the last lecture, and if any teachers or teaching assistants from my old school read this, I'm sure it'll make them smile! I was renowned for my giggling fits at school, I was terrible! We used to have jokes and stuff in lessons that my friends laughed at for a couple of minutes, but I just went on, and on, and on! And I literally couldn't control myself if one of my friends offered a comment whilst the teacher was talking, comments like 'his socks don't match!' - doesn't sound that funny, but it was at the time! Also, my teaching assistant used to set me off all the time! As I had her for 7 years, it got to the point where I could just look at her and know what was going through her head, so this lead to many laughing fits especially in silent situations! I'll never forget the time my form teacher was attempting to take the morning register, and she couldn't as I was having a laughing fit over something, which was making her laugh! Anyway, in my last lecture, I actually had a laughing fit, my first whilst being at University! My friend by accident kicked one of the pull-out tables, which made a loud bang, both making me jump and drawing attention to ourselves - I just lost it! My head had to be buried into my scarf!

The other day, Paralympics GB contacted me as they are holding another 'Sports Fest'! They know of my 'success story' (if that's what you want to call it!) of me attending the Sports Fest in Sheffield in 2013, and how I now compete in the Club Throw. They also somehow know about CP Teens UK and they have asked me to share the Sports Fest 2015 information with you! So, you can attend the Sports Fest...

ON: Thursday 5th March 2015 - if you're at school, I recommend you asking one of your teachers if they could organise a school trip. The Sports Fest welcomes school trips of disabled students.

AT: Durham University

TIME: 10am-5pm

More information can be found here: http://www.sportsfest.uk.com You also need to register here to attend!

For me, this promotional poster is surreal! As you can see, it boasts that Stephen Miller will be attending. Stephen is an F32 athlete like myself and one of my friends - every competition I go to, Stephen is there competing alongside me. It is crazy, and extremely cool, to see that people are literally queuing up to meet him! I remember the Sports Fest 2013 promotional poster and gazing at the athletes I would queue up on the day to meet. Fast forward to 2015, and the athletes that were on that poster are now my friends. As you all know, the Sports Fest absolutely changed my life and I totally recommend that you go if you can! What I loved about it was, whatever your disability, there was a sport for you and everything was under one roof, wth all the information you needed for you to start your chosen sport now - not in a few weeks or months, now!

Paralympics GB have also said they're happy to have CP Teens UK leaflets at the event! Unfortunately, I can't attend because of University (another thing I wouldn't be doing if it wasn't for the Sports Fest!), but look out for a little bit of CP Teens UK scattered about!

As I said, some of you sent me bits and bobs for 'The Blog of the Year', but unfortunately I had already pressed publish! So, here is Gina, who is Mum to Eve who has Cerebral Palsy and she had the SDR operation in 2012. Thank you Gina! ...

"Eve is a ten-year-old with Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy. This year (2014), Eve has made huge progress. She had SDR 2 years ago in 2012. Prior to SDR, the best outcome for Eve was to manually propel herself in a wheelchair, but she has surpassed all expectations. Not only is she a whizz in her Kaye Walker, she has also started Wheelchair Basketball and has participated in her first tournament for the Leeds Spiders U15 team.

She has mastered walking short distances using tripod sticks and completed her first triathlon - she swam, cycled and walked to raise money for her friend Charlotte, who also has Cerebral Palsy, and she raised over £3,000 for Charlotte to have therapy in Europe.

Eve has also learned to swim this year and has completed her level 2 water skills - these are all things that us as her parents, we never thought we would ever see. Eve is now learning to walk with canes and although this is very difficult for her, she is trying really hard and she enjoys the freedom this gives her.

Her everyday life is full of challenges and she is learning ways to cope with this constantly. She is an amazing child and she has taught me how to be strong and never lose hope as well as to never take the first option. She has worked hard and passed milestones this year which are beyond our expectations, even after SDR, but the icing on the cake this year for Eve was returning to America and seeing the medical team who preformed her operations 2 years ago. They were astonished by Eve's progress and Dr Park, the main surgeon, told Eve that with continued hard work over the next year she would get to independence, which blew us out of the water! We were told that she would never walk, talk or live independently and she has shown that with hard work and determination you can achieve anything!

Eve still has a long way to go to be totally independent but we are taking this journey with her one step at a time. She makes me proud every day that I am a parent of a child with a disability, she has brought our whole family together and shown us how to understand and empathise. It has been a tremendous journey so far and we can't wait to see what the next year (2015) will bring and where she will be at the end of 2015.

~Gina (Eve's mum)"

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