Cheryl, the Determined Drummer

One of my sponsors generously saved a box of bread for me this past weekend. It was pouring outside, but I was so excited by the variety of the food that I went out anyway. I was given lots of pies and healthy breads, and needed two trips to carry them all. I passed them out over the two days. I think it must have been the pies, but I was very cordially received by many. A young lady with pink hair and her boyfriend on Granville made an effort to call me back to thank me, and a veteran outside of 7-Eleven told me that I was “an angel”. I was embarrassed, but in a good way 🙂

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After work, I roamed the clubs outside of Granville and found Cheryl, a woman in an electric wheelchair whom I saw frequently parked (literally) in the same spot. It was 2 in the morning and rainy, yet there she was still, beating away on her drum. I offered her a pumpkin pie and stayed with her to hear her story. She welcomed me to take a picture of her, and I made sure not to capture her face so as to respect her privacy as she is shy about being recognized.

Cheryl was a middle-aged woman of small stature but made up for it with her huge smile. I was first drawn to her by her drum beats, which was steady and rhythmic. She was shy but pleased to hear that I wanted to feature her on my blog and encouraged me to continue doing what I do. She saw that I was also curious about her physical condition and was open to explain why she was bound to a wheelchair. Cheryl suffered cerebral palsy when she was a child that left her as a paraplegic. The limb apraxia apparently also extended to her left hand, leaving her with only one functional right hand.

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Despite the disabilities, Cheryl was motivated to achieve in life. She was proud to tell me that she graduated from UBC with a BA in music composition. Because of her physical condition, she was exempt from the requirement of specializing in an instrument. After graduation, Cheryl’s main caretaker, her father, suffered from an accident and was sent to a hospital. There were complications in the care of his father at the hospital and he was eventually transferred to a care home, where he remained partly due to his dementia. This left Cheryl alone. Fortunately she was able to obtain support from CSIL (Choice in Supports for Independent Living) which funded her hiring of a part-time caretaker during the day and allowed her some independence, to which she greatly appreciated. However, she was only able to obtain services for 8 hours a day, which was inadequate given the severity of her condition. Cheryl did reflect this need to her case manager, but was told that the lack of funding plagued the province. This partially prompted her to come out at night around popular clubbing venues to play the drums for people in the hope of acquiring more financial support.

Cheryl was warm and patient when she told me her story. She recognized that there were people in the society with needs and expressed her wishes that there were more funding for individuals like her.

I was grateful for the opportunity to talk to Cheryl because of her inspiring story and attitude towards life. At one point, I expressed embarrassment about my ingratitude at times for minor inconveniences despite being a person blessed with fully functional limbs, but Cheryl just laughed and told me that it’s perfectly human, for we all face challenges from time to time. She had such a wonderful spirit to her and I aspire to have the same optimistic outlook no matter the obstacles. I was glad that I met Cheryl, for she encouraged me both directly and indirectly to continue what I do. She reminded me of one of my favourite quotes, “Be Kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”. I hope I will see her again. Haha, I feel that meeting her and hearing her story also made my getting drenched by the rain and bruises from having slipped all the more worth it 😉

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Lol, my “battle wound”~
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