Celebrating a newfound pride in my life as a disabled woman

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by BioNews Staff |

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A professional photo of Candis Welch against a bright orange backdrop. She's wearing a royal blue jumpsuit with a black belt and is seated in her power wheelchair.

Candis Welch. (Photos courtesy of Candis Welch)

This is Candis Welch’s story:

Becoming Ms. Wheelchair California 2023 has given me a newfound pride in my life as a disabled woman. However, I have lived with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) for decades, and my experience has been eye-opening, traumatizing, and fulfilling, all at the same time.

My story began in 1985, when I was born with SMA type 2. I was officially diagnosed at 18 months old, and from that moment on, my life was completely transformed.

I was told for many years that my disability would progressively worsen over time, and I would lose my strength and functionality. I heard these statements over and over; however, until it began happening, it didn’t dawn on me how it would affect my mental and physical strength.

At 30 years old, I had just completed my postgraduate degree, but my body was becoming weak, and I needed more assistance with basic daily tasks.

Candis Welch is crowned Ms. Wheelchair California 2023. She's wearing a royal blue jumpsuit, a tiara, and a sash, and is pictured seated in her power wheelchair.

Welch is crowned Ms. Wheelchair California 2023.

I knew my life would be much different going forward. That was a hard pill to swallow because I have watched my friends struggle to maintain their independence, or worse, lose their life. Though it was difficult to adjust, I was determined to find resources and mobility aids to assist me as needed. But that wasn’t enough: I wanted to bring more awareness to adults with disabilities, especially those with SMA and wheelchair users.

This led me to Ms. Wheelchair California. The platform allowed me to raise awareness and share my testimony of resilience, faith, and courage.

Even though my body is weakening, my mind is where my true strength lives. I am college-educated, gainfully employed, and have my own business. These were goals I was told I wouldn’t accomplish. I was even told I wouldn’t live past 21 years old! However, I ignored all my naysayers and pursued life because I never wanted to just survive; I wanted to thrive.

Living with SMA brings along a great community and a family that understands and believes in me, even when it’s hard for me to believe in myself. I am proud of my life and my body, and I’m proud to be a part of the SMA family.

But know that while SMA is a part of my story, it’s not the entire story.

In recognition of Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month in August, the SMA Community Spotlight campaign features a series of stories highlighting the real-life experiences of people affected by SMA, written in their own words. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #SMASpotlight, or read the full series.

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