Greetings…it is time for the next installment in the Ataxia Profile series. Today’s entry will be number eleven…and it is with pleasure that I introduce and present to you all, Kelly Rutledge.
Kelly was diagnosed with an unknown SCA, (if you want a number Kelly, just tell people you have SCA 24/7), in two-thousand-and-fourteen at the age of thirty-five. Like many…myself included…Kelly remembers that as a child she was always known as being clumsy. Her marked lack of finesse was often noted by family and friends…and quite often joked about. The more jokes told…the more Kelly became determined to be normal…to stand out less.
Kelly became a competitive gymnast…until a severely broken arm put an end to that aspiration. After she recovered, she decided to take up dance. During High School, Kelly performed on the Drill Team…eventually becoming an officer of the sixty-plus member team. Her involvement at that level earned Kelly a college scholarship and a spot on the very elite collegiate dance/drill team, known as the Kilgore College Rangerettes.
Kilgore College is a Junior College, so after two years Kelly transferred to the University of Texas in Austin. There she majored in Kinesiology and graduated in two-thousand-and-one…with the plan of going on further to Physical Therapy School. Before this, however, Kelly decided that she would first backpack the world. To date, she has been in over forty countries! Kelly loved the experience…but never did make it back to PT School. She got married instead…and as she jokes, “life got in the way”!
Maybe, hahahaha….but, Kelly now has a beautiful family:
Kelly is very active…and has always been a very determined person. To keep herself in shape, she began working out with a personal trainer a few days a week. One day, her trainer noticed something slightly “off” with Kelly and advised her that she should probably be seen and checked out by a doctor. She was alarmed at this time to note that she also could no longer run!
Kelly went to see a Neurologist…who at first suspected MS. He ran her through an MRI and was at a loss when the results came back negative. Kelly then went to a second Neurologist, who happened to specialize in movement disorders, and Kelly was given the diagnosis of Ataxia. Five years later…several genetic tests…and Kelly’s Ataxia is still unknown, but she continues in her quest to find her particular type. She currently maintains a full-time job, volunteers and is active in her church, and rides her trike on a regular basis.
Kelly struggled with a fear…that there was a potential that Ataxia was beginning to create, and force her into, a new identity. She began feeling disconnected and isolated from her “normal” friends, and was experiencing a drain from the need to explain to everyone. She needed to find purpose…to feel like she could contribute…that SOMETHING positive could come out of this thing called Ataxia. Kelly attended the NAF Conference held in Las Vegas in two thousand and nineteen…and she came away from the weeklend knowing what she needed to do. She established the North Texas Walk-n-Roll. She envisions the event to be big…and dreams that over the coming years it will grow…becoming a huge source for raising money and awareness.
Though it is not always easy, Kelly has learned that accepting herself…while letting go of that which she cannot change…has aided her, as she deals with Ataxia in her life…and this positive outlook has become the lesson that she would like to pass on. She also wants her fellow Ataxia family to know that they should never stop dreaming. A physical disability does not make you less of a person…God loves you regardless!
Thank-you for telling us your story, Kelly. It is important that we share our lives with one another…our struggles, insecurities, victories when we have them, and strengths that we learn. Sometimes it takes courage to share ourselves in this way…but I think we gain strength when we hear from one another…I know I do.
Your story is inspiring, Kelly…so thank-you, again. Well, that wraps up another Ataxia Profile.
Until next time my friends, Jason
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