Best friends fight for the rights of people with different limbs.

“It’s funny how you meet people when you need them in life.” Call it fate or luck, but life places individuals in your life who will impact you and become such an integral part of your life that you can’t envision your life any other way later. Shelly and I met through an uncommon means that is now a terrific way to connect and meet new people. Our page aims, or hope, to encourage other children and people with limb differences to live their lives without fear or insecurity. They can accomplish anything they set their minds to if they believe in themselves that they would be able to live a life free of limitations.

Sarah’s Adventures:

Being born with a limb difference has been a once-in-a-lifetime event. I’ve had to be a fighter since I was born, and I believe it’s because of that fighting spirit that I’ve been able to use my limb difference for positivity rather than negativity. My mother had no idea one of her twin infants would be born with no left hand and only a thumb on her right hand when I was born in 1987, three days before Christmas.

I was taken away to a NICU, where I stayed for nearly a month until graduating. My mother rarely speaks about that time, but as a mother, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for her to have one baby at home and another in the hospital, with hour-long trips to the hospital virtually every day.

Courtesy of Sarah May and Shelly Harper

I finally got to go home, and then it was time to go on with my life! Everything a baby does had to be taught to me. I was crawling, walking, and eating with a spoon. Every ‘typical’ baby’s milestone was met by me as well. I got a little bigger and older as I got older, and I recall learning to tie my shoes and ride a bike at the age of five. These tasks were impossible or extremely difficult at first, but with a bit of extra support and work, I was able to master them!

My parents tried to see whether a prosthetic could assist, but I felt it to be more of a nuisance than a benefit… So, after a swim in a tiny pool, that was its end. Thankfully, I was raised by a mother who never gave up on me and taught me that I could achieve everything I set my mind to. Like Thomas the Train, one of her favorite things to say to me was, “I believe I can, I think I can.” I genuinely believe that instilling this perspective in me, along with a strong will and independence that I inherited, has made me who I am today.

Courtesy of Sarah May and Shelly Harper

I learned to adapt and overcome obstacles as a child. Like any other kid, I enjoyed doing things. Singing, dancing, go-karts, rollerblading, horseback riding, rock gathering, volleyball, badminton, and household duties such as folding clothes and weeding the yard are just a few of the activities available. I didn’t allow my limb difference to hold me back, and I had the same upbringing as the rest of my pals. As my report card would always state, ‘Pleasure to have in class, but Sarah speaks too much,’ it was never a problem for me to make friends as a kid. I was a social butterfly who would answer, “I was born this way,” when asked what had happened.

Courtesy of Sarah May and Shelly Harper

I consider myself fortunate in that I always appeared to make friends, regardless of what grade or school I was in. Sure, a few rotten apples among us used to torment me, but I learned to shrug it off. ‘If you don’t like me because of my hands, too bad for you, your loss,’ I said in middle school.

Growing up with a limb difference and never seeing anyone who looks like you can be lonely and isolated. Even though I had friends, they couldn’t comprehend how difficult it was for me to be myself as a person with a limb difference. After joining a Facebook community for persons with ABS, Amniotic Band Syndrome (which I have on my left arm, Symbradtchly on my right hand), I found Shelly, who is now my Soul Sister’s best friend.

Courtesy of Sarah May and Shelly Harper

Between graduating from high school and meeting Shelly, I went through significant life events that anyone with or without a limb difference has likely gone through. I met a boy and had my heart shattered, but I also learned how I didn’t want to be treated and how valuable I was. Then my spouse, who at the time was simply a buddy, turned out to be the one. He accepts me as I am and willingly assists me in any task, such as opening a new jar of pickles. My husband treats me the way any mother would want her daughter to be treated. I proudly display my wedding band on my only thumb. Like any other parent, I also had a child of my own and learned how to change diapers, operate a car seat, and fold a stroller.

Courtesy of Sarah May and Shelly Harper

Being a mother with a limb difference has provided me with an excellent opportunity to teach my child about kindness and how to treat those who are different. My limb difference, I believe, has aided her in being the helpful and open-minded young lady she is. Being a wife and mother has been one of the greatest joys, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have held those titles. A limb difference does not prevent you from living a happy life, and many who know me don’t even notice my limb difference; they only see me. I also work as a receptionist in the medical industry, which necessitates quick typing and multi-tasking.

Many people have complimented me on my abilities throughout the years, saying how shocked they are to see what I can do and how happy they are of me for overcoming my limb difference. This comment has helped me recognize that my limb difference isn’t seen as a disability, scary, or gross by others, but rather as inspiring and robust. My aim is that anyone with a limb difference will continue to do so in the future, demonstrating what can be accomplished regardless of one’s circumstances.

Shelly’s Adventures:

My entire life has been shaped by the fact that I was born with a limb difference, and I am the person I am now because of it. ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way,’ I’ve always believed, and while I can accomplish most things my way, self-acceptance has always been difficult for me.

It wasn’t until my son was born with a rare eye problem five years ago that I realized I needed to work on my fears to show him how to embrace his uniqueness. Hearing other people’s tales and knowing you aren’t alone has proven to be one of the most beneficial things I’ve learned. As a result of this, I am now able to share my story with others.

Courtesy of Sarah May and Shelly Harper

I don’t recall much from my childhood, but I remember my first traumatic bullying experience in elementary school. Perhaps it was my youth, or the fact that we were surrounded by others who had heard left is etched in my mind. I recall being terrified and powerless as that humiliating unwanted attention was directed to me. What did everyone have to say about it? Did anyone else believe this mean-spirited child when he called me a freak loudly enough for the entire arena to hear?

That’s probably why the word “freak” has always set off alarm bells for me. I’d also experienced a lot of exclusion from my circle of friends. I wondered if it was my personality, arm, or something else, but continually thinking, ‘Could it be my arm?’ was isolating, making me feel like I didn’t belong and that I wasn’t good enough.

Courtesy of Sarah May and Shelly Harper

I remember making up a dance with my friends at a sleepover in middle school. I wanted to sink into a hole on the floor and vanish. I couldn’t do some dancing routines because I was so uncomfortable. ‘Perhaps they wish I wasn’t here,’ I reasoned. I recall wanting to cry but unable to do so since no one seemed to understand. On the other hand, my buddies did not make me feel that way. One, in particular, approached me and pushed me to dance, assuring me that my alternate moves were fantastic. It wasn’t my arm

holding me back; it was my self-doubt.

The ignorant statements of an old acquaintance of my parents were the only other terrible experience I recall having an impact on my mentality. ‘She will never find one because of her arm,’ he warned my parents. It was heartbreaking to hear because I had previously questioned whether it was true. All the clumsy phone calls and giggles for attention, the notes wondering if anyone liked me? They didn’t get a resounding ‘Yes, I do!’

Maybe it was just the whole ‘girls have cooties’ thing at the time, but as a girl with a limb difference, I was constantly scared that my arm was the reason and began to feel like I needed a lover to establish my worth. However, the ignorance was incorrect. I’ve been happily married for the past nine years.

Courtesy of Sarah May and Shelly Harper

One of the most challenging things for me to accept was the reality that no matter how capable I was, there were always those who assumed I wasn’t. Although it was always frustrating when someone thought I wouldn’t be able to achieve something, it took me almost 32 years to discover that it wasn’t about me or my talents. It was just a bunch of uninformed folks doing the best they could with what they had.

Regrettably, I acknowledge that being underestimated was such a painful experience; I had avoided circumstances in my life so that people wouldn’t have the opportunity to make those judgments. I can honestly state that neither my limb difference nor other individuals have ever held me back in life, as I have always been offered equal opportunities. It was always my worry, which sometimes is crippling, that caused me to doubt myself, question people’s perceptions, and tell myself that I needed to hide my differences.

Even in the hottest summer months, I’d wear a jacket over my arm throughout most of my life. Looking back, I’m ashamed to admit that I refused to realize that I was different throughout the majority of my life. I just wanted to blend in with the crowd, not have to learn how to do things differently, and not deal with the looks and preconceptions. However, throughout the last five years of focusing on accepting my physical differences, I’ve had several uplifting situations that remind me to be proud of my differences.

Courtesy of Sarah May and Shelly Harper

I’m now at a point in my life where I’m grateful for being born this way because it’s taught me how strong I can be, what I can do even when others question me, and it’s taught me about diversity and compassion in ways I’m not sure I would have known otherwise.

Being born with a limb discrepancy has the advantage of having nothing to compare it to. We have no idea what it’s like to have two complete arms and hands. THIS IS THE STANDARD FOR US. We learn in the same way everyone else does: we know with what we have. We go through the same trials and tribulations as any other child, and like every other child, we learn to do things our way. My parents never made me feel incapable of achieving my goals and encouraged me to try new things. Their conviction in my ability to achieve everything I set my mind to instilled in me the belief that I was just as capable as anyone else.

Being born with only one arm has instilled a strong sense of perseverance in me. From the simplest things like tying shoes, braiding my hair, painting my nails, typing, and carrying heavy objects to learning to crochet, skiing, horseback riding, and raising my children, I’ve spent my entire life committed to accomplishing everything anyone with two hands can do. The monkey bars are the only things I haven’t figured out, but I often joke that I will figure them out one day. While I have tried prosthetics in the past, I have never been a fan. I used my right arm to assist me with many tasks, but the prosthetic was always in the way and took away that capacity when it was on.

Courtesy of Sarah May and Shelly Harper

My biggest regret is that I didn’t get therapy until I was 30 years old, but it’s better late than never! Meeting other people with comparable limb differences gave me a lot of encouragement, and I was fortunate enough to meet Sarah. She understood me in so many ways and was remarkably similar to me. Even though we reside on different sides of the country, we’ve only met in person once!

Despite a traumatic discrimination experience at a well-known and popular amusement park, where we were not only publicly and humiliatingly kicked off a ride because of our limb differences, but we were also incorrectly told we couldn’t ride several rides at the park because of our differences, it was a fantastic week. So, even though we’ve only spent one week together, we’ve already accomplished a lot.

Sarah and I had an instant connection that got more robust over time, and who knows if we would have met if it hadn’t been for my limb difference. Our desire to assist and inspire others drove us to develop our social media presence, and it’s lovely to know that our experiences can aid others. It gives me hope and gratitude for the differences I used to be embarrassed by. We spend too much time worrying about our appearance, comparing ourselves to others, and yearning to change certain aspects of ourselves. Still, the truth is that our differences are what make us unique and attractive. We are enough just the way we are, and I can only hope that sharing our story would empower and inspire others to believe that everything is possible, regardless of their limiting beliefs.

Courtesy of Sarah May and Shelly Harper

Our Background:

So here we were in October 2016, and a post from a girl named Shelly appeared on our ABS page, introducing herself. Her post struck a chord with me so powerfully that I left a remark, and we immediately became friends. We became Facebook friends, then began messaging, text messaging, and finally, many phone calls lasting 3-4 hours each. Not only did we share a limb difference, but our perspectives on it were similar, and we shared many of the same interests! Music, outdoors, hiking, and family… there are so many things in common that it can be frightening at times! It’s rare to meet someone who makes you feel like you’ve known them forever, like a soul sister. That is the type of friendship we have.

Courtesy of Sarah May and Shelly Harper

We eventually met in 2018 after being long-distance besties for two years when I traveled to the East Coast to meet Shelly in person. She lives on the East Coast, whereas I dwell in the Pacific Northwest. Living so far away from your best friend must be painful! That time together was so much fun, and we made so many beautiful memories! We saw Miranda Lambert (who was incredible), danced the night away for her birthday, rode roller coasters, got matching sunflower tattoos (our fave), and went to the beach. Then there was the sad farewell at the airport. It was one of the most challenging days of both of our life since it is difficult to say goodbye to someone with whom you share such a deep tie.

Courtesy of Sarah May and Shelly Harper

We returned to our everyday lives, and before we knew it, it was the summer of 2019. We saw many social media posts championing disability and hinting that ALL limb differences should be labeled as disabled regardless of severity. We were so startled and outraged by it that we created our own Instagram profile, Inspiring Difference, to teach kids that having a limb difference doesn’t imply you’re disabled! We didn’t want children to watch these people, urging them to adopt a term that didn’t sit well with them.

Shelly and I have always believed that your limb difference isn’t a handicap; it’s all in your head. Your mind can accomplish everything you set your mind to! Our goal is to illustrate that our limb difference is just that: a difference and that we are capable of doing anything else. We want children to celebrate their differences rather than hide them or feel inferior due to them. To realize that, despite their differences, they are worthy and capable.

We understand the physical, mental, and emotional problems, but it doesn’t imply your limb difference has to be sad or damaging. Our goal is to encourage children to see that they are perfectly constructed in their unique way and have a life worth enjoying, one free of limitations and limitations.”

Courtesy of Sarah May and Shelly Harper

Others will benefit from your beauty and strength. SHARE this story with your Facebook friends and family.

Facebook Comments