Each semester, the IETF awards four $1,000 college scholarships to students who have essential tremor through its Catherine S. Rice Scholarship Fund. As part of the application process, students are asked to write an essay on the topic, “how essential tremor has affected my life.” The following essay is from one of our fall 2022 scholarship recipients.
By BreAnne Hamby,
Southwest Baptist University
It all started with my best friend sitting next to me confused over algebra. I sat there helping her with her coordinate plane trying to count the boxes up and over to plot a point. The problem was I could not keep track of what boxes I already counted and which ones I had not because the pen my hand was holding kept moving around. Finally, frustrated, my best friend did it for me. After the day in the gym things only got worse. I found myself sitting in class trying to keep up with my teacher while writing sloppy notes and asking my friends to peel my oranges because my hands were too shaky. My good friends tried to help which I appreciated, but I did not want help. I wanted to do it on my own; I was 1 after all, I should not have needed my friends to be cleaning up after me.
Finally, I talked to my parents and after many doctors and neurologist visits, I was diagnosed with essential tremor. By then I had learned to cope by finding new ways to manage my writing, eating, and daily activities that had seemed nearly impossible before. Having essential tremor gave me a new perspective on life because I realized how much people take for granted. For example, eating soup with a spoon or writing on a sticky-note. Having ET helped me appreciate the “simple” actions and to work hard to overcome the difficult tasks. Someone asked me once if I would get rid of my tremors if I could. Most people would automatically think “Of course I would, it prevents me from doing so much!” However, for me, I would not change my condition because after two years essential tremor is part of who I am.
I am an artist, which requires exact detail which is precisely what is made difficult by my tremors. This being the case, there are some artistic things I cannot do, but there are also things I can do with focus and work. I also play the piano which commands perfect pressure and placement which tremors makes difficult. Though it is hard, I still play and perform. I see these obstacles as a challenge which has given me a new perspective on myself. It is easy to give up and say I cannot do something, but it is hard to challenge yourself and say, “maybe I can.” If I had not been diagnosed with tremors, I would not have learned to work so hard and never give up, or learned to ask for help and to keep moving on when something hard happens in life.
ET has also changed my life by giving me a chance to be part of another community, one in which people with tremors get to laugh about silly things they do when they shake too much and can share frustrations and difficulties they face when doing simple tasks. How has ET affected my life? In a good way. An unexpectantly good way.
* * * *
Do you want to help support students with ET during their educational journey? Make a donation to the ET scholarship fund online.