Read on to learn more about Ellie Cammack. Ellie has Acquired Ataxia and is the administrator of the Ataxia & Fitness Facebook group.
I was diagnosed with Cerebellar Ataxia at 24 – I had a massive stroke during an Ironman triathlon training swim which left me with Ataxia. The stroke was primarily in my brainstem and cerebellum; the damage to my cerebellum is what caused my Ataxia and various other conditions: right hemiparesis, aphasia, right side blindness – cover one eye if you’d like to know what it looks like -, foot drop, and spasticity.
Prior to my stroke and subsequent Ataxia, I maintained a busy life working as an Operations Manager for a project management company, training regularly, and planned to head back to school to finish a degree focusing on linguistic cryptanalysis.
My first field of study was in music, focusing on classical guitar and vocal performance, then went unused as I developed vocal Ataxia alongside my cerebellar Ataxia. Eventually, I came to accept that music performance was no longer in my repertoire and turned my focus back to triathlon and various sporting activities.
While I haven’t returned to the triathlon, I enjoy various other activities; kayaking, hand-cycling, yoga, calisthenics, and spending time in the gym. My most beloved activity since I was diagnosed is art. I’m now a member of Art League Houston and the art group of United Spinal Houston, sell my work, and occasionally teach art lessons. I can’t make a straight line, but that only encourages me to continue trying!
The pandemic has lessened my opportunities to take part in most of the activities I love. I don’t mind because it gives me the chance to be creative and focus on things like art and calisthenics, and stumbling (aka., “walking”). I love practicing walking. I can stumble around fairly safely, though it looks like I’m walking a tightrope during an earthquake. If you can move, move. Never stop moving. Move while you can!
Patience, perseverance, determination – just a few of the things having Ataxia has taught me. Be kind to yourself. I’ve learned to appreciate the lessons I’ve faced and am still learning. I’m more independent than before – but in a different way. I still rely on other people for many things.
People are precious, and sometimes we forget that. WE are precious. Sometimes we say and do things that hurt or disappoint ourselves and each other. How we react to that sadness and hurt is what matters. Beyond that, how we react to our circumstances shape us. How I react to my reality is difficult, but I’ll never give up, despite my disability.
Thanks, Ellie Cammack for sharing your story!