My name is Michael. I’m young, black and disabled.
The ‘gift’ or ‘curse’ they were talking about is my deafness in one ear. This is due to a condition called Cholesteatoma, an abnormal skin growth that develops in the middle section of the ear, behind the eardrum. It is known as a birth defect that caused me constant pain, ear bleeds, dizziness, headaches and repeated ear infections. If left untreated, it could cause complications from brain abscesses to meningitis. It is because of this that I had to have constant operations to remove the growth and try to restore my hearing and save my life. In total, from the age of 12 when I had my first operation, I have had six major operations. I am now 28 years old. The operations work for a small while, and then the growth comes back with a vengeance. I was recently told that the growth has come back and I need to have two more operations to remove it which is annoying, but it’s my health at the end of the day.
My condition has no cure and surgery is needed 100% of the time when detected. From a young age I had already accepted that something was wrong with me (Or maybe I didn’t know any better). I was probably around 8 or 9 years old; constantly running around, playing sports and video-games like a lot of 9-year-olds my age were. I would play out a lot with friends and family and when I was at home, organise football matches with my action figures. I only noticed that I couldn’t hear properly when my older cousin asked why I said ‘huh’ all the time and constantly asked them to repeat themselves. As I grew older, finally got a diagnosis, and had my operations, it got harder to do things people my age did. One of the hardest was trying to get back to school/work after months away. I constantly felt like an outcast, like I didn’t fit in, and in the end, I rebelled. However difficult I was in my early years I was ten times worse when I hit my teens. I found myself constantly battling with myself. Constantly battling with my demons and insecurities, all leading me on roller coaster journeys, teaching me lessons that in the long run I am thankful for.
This condition marred my education, work and normal day-to-day living. However, it has greatly influenced my life and the way I look at things. Growing up, I constantly lived with the anxiety of the problem coming back. But from this, I have been able to turn my experiences into strength… I am the co-founder of a football academy that helps young people build their future and gain a qualification whilst aiming to become professional footballers. Further endeavours include writing my book and working on my music album which will both be out very soon. God willing, I will be travelling across the world promoting my music. I have always been very keen in the arts such as music and creative writing, and have always wanted to share my talents… I am a father (a rather handsome father) to my beautiful and intelligent three-year-old son and I’m striving towards being a role model for him, building a solid foundation and living life to the fullest making every second count.
I feel my experiences (however painful or puzzling) have helped me get to this current stage. I think it is important to share experiences (especially for black boys/men) in order to provide the motivation and encouragement and to show them that they can overcome obstacles. The best advice I can give, especially to young males who may be going through similar experiences, is to remain progressive and productive. You may not see it now, but there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. The many tests that you’ll have in life will shape you into the strong human being you’ll become in the future. Everything happens for a reason whether unfortunate or fortunate. It’s how you respond to it that moulds your mind state and your life. My father once told me that life is the best teacher. I’m learning more and more every day and I’m appreciating life for what it is. God willing my life is far from over, I just want to help, inspire and play my role the best way I possibly can. ‘ Even with a disability I have This ability’
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