Achieving Big Dreams By Kendra Gottsleben

Kendra G photoOn November 3, 1984, I was born strong and healthy without any signs of impending health complications.  Similar to other new parents, my parents were excited for my life full of limitless possibilities.  However, unexpectedly a few months later, they would begin endless doctors’ appointments that still continue today.

At the age of four, I was diagnosed with a rare enzyme disorder called Mucopolysaccararidosis Type VI (MPS VI) also known as Maroteaux-Lamy.  One in 215,000 people are diagnosed with this condition.  My body is missing the enzyme needed to cleanse my cells, which results in a buildup of a gluey-like substance that affects my heart, eyes, connective tissue and other vital organs.

Now, twenty-nine years later, my parents’ hope for my full, limitless life has become reality despite my diagnosis.  This is largely due to the positive attitude and determination my parents instilled in me at a very young age.  I was taught worthy achievements required hard work and persistence.  Also, although I cannot choose my obstacles I can choose my attitude.

Being that I’m short (forty inches tall!) and easily out of breathe, becoming a stellar athlete was not practical for me.  Instead, I focused on achieving good grades, which allowed me the opportunity to feel just like my peers in school.  By no means was I a straight A student, but I always worked hard and was dedicated to my studies.  Excelling in school motivated me to graduate from high school with a 3.6 GPA, become a member of the National Honor Society, and to go on to college with plans to double major.

Everyone has obstacles in their life no matter who we are or what we look like.  I have always understood that as I have grown up.  My parents taught me that some people have obstacles that are visible and some have hidden ones and that no one is actually perfect, even if they seem it on the outside.  I believe that G-d created us differently because the world would be very boring if we all looked the same and did everything like one another.  Like they say, “Varity is the spice of life.”

For me I know nothing different from being short, living with the medicinal community in my life on a regular basis, and having to work extra harder at times in certain situations.  But, that is my reality and I actually would not want it any other way.  I have no way of knowing what it would be like to be 6’7 or jump in a car and drive across town by myself.

For every obstacle I have encountered in life I have gained something positive from them.  As a result of my disability I have had so many amazing experiences and have met so many incredible people along the way.  If I had been born differently I would not be the person I am today.  I for sure would not be writing this blog about acceptance of my uniqueness.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t live in a world of butterflies and rainbows twenty-four seven. I have had plenty of moments where I have been frustrated with the challenges I have been given.  But, I don’t allow myself to dwell on them for to long of a time.  I know that feeling sorry for myself won’t get me anywhere.

My parents never let me whine about the difficulties I had, and will continue to have in life.  They instilled in me to always look to the abilities I do have.  We talked about struggles and then looked to the future.  So, as an adult I have kept that same mind-set and focus on what I can do and rejoice in those accomplishments.

Each day I have a positive outlook and work toward success despite misconceptions of me or any other challenges in my life.  As a result of my parents’ encouragement and my personal dedication to live a life of limitless possibilities, I have experienced much success.  I double majored in sociology and psychology, currently work as a Marketing Communications Specialist and on writing a children’s book.  I also authored a book, “Live Laugh Lemonade: A Journey of Choosing to Beat the Odd.” The title of my book serves as a reminder reminds me to turn obstacles into something positive.

The physical challenges I have are easily visible to anyone who looks at me.  Being in a wheelchair and being this size is definitely impossible for others to miss.  However, learning to accept myself has been key to my happiness.  I try to surround myself with people who believe in me and support my dreams, but even when that’s not possible, I work even harder to help others get to know me for me. Because that’s the success for which I am most proud !


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