When I think back to our life of four years ago, I’m reminded of searing, striking pain we felt as we accepted Kate had some kind of special need. The 2010 Olympic Winter games will always remind me of the uncertainty and worry we lived through in February 2010. It’s weird, because we love Olympics and enjoyed watching them so much. We enjoyed watching our athletes truly “own the podium” in their own country in 2010 and honestly felt that athletic programming would be a good investment for our spare funds. Little did we know what was ahead in our own lives.
The VANOC games were even more memorable because Jamie, Kate, my mom and I all visited my youngest sister Ashley in October 2009 in BC. We got to see some of the Olympic sites come to life. It was really cool and meaningful. However, during our stay it became really apparent that Kate was suffering from something neurological – her sleep was a complete and utter disaster. I had never felt so tired and ill-equipped to function in my whole life. Something was seriously “wrong” with Kate, but I didn’t put the pieces of the puzzle together until we watched Alexandre Bilodeau win gold in February 2010. My mom, the kids and I were up at the cottage for a few days enjoying the snow and some time to watch Olympics. As I watched this amazing athlete embrace his brother, something clicked in my brain. I knew Kate was definitely facing a neurological disorder – and at that point, I figured it was Cerebral Palsy.
The stories in the media that followed Bilodeau’s victory shared his family life and many details about his brother Frederic. I was thirsty for information and craving an answer for my daughter’s delays. It was the Bilodeau family’s story that helped push me to find answers. After we returned from the cottage, I went back to our family doctor and insisted on a referral to a pediatrician. I really wanted a referral to a pediatric neurologist, but our GP ensured us that the pediatrician would make that referral if necessary. Within a month, we had started occupational therapy, physical therapy and seen a pediatrician. All because an athlete won gold and shared it with his brother. That’s a pretty powerful effect of Olympic gold.
Here we are four years later. We try to model the inclusive lifestyle the Bilodeau’s have established for Frederic. Our life can be difficult, but no where near as tragic as I anticipated in 2010. And now that the kids are old enough, we all love watching Olympics. I cried when Bilodeau repeated his gold medal. It signified something deeper to me, a triumph uniquely our own. How far we've come from scary, desperate times. At the end of this Olympics, we were watching the men’s gold medal match in curling as the kids were getting ready for school. Team Jacobs made an awesome move and the crowd on the TV cheered. Kate threw her arms up in the air, flapped them excitedly and vocalized a cheer, essentially copying what she heard on TV. Four years later, we are more than OK. We are awesome.
Kelly is Kate's devoted, caring, Type-A mom. Kelly is a high school physics teacher who earned her masters degree in neuroscience from McMaster University in 2003.