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It’s fitting that I start writing my first column as I begin my next major life transition. I graduate from the University of Southern California (USC) in May and start a journalism internship in Washington, D.C., in June. I’ll be moving from the home I’ve made on the West Coast to the strange land of the East Coast. I know it won’t be easy, but then again, life already hasn’t been easy, thanks to my fatal muscle disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
I was diagnosed with DMD when I was 5. By that time, my parents noticed I had trouble keeping up with kids at school and on my soccer team. It was a heartbreaking discovery for a 5-year-old. At the same time, I gained some degree of peace knowing what was wrong with me.
I lived a normal life despite my diagnosis until middle school. The early teenage years are tough for everyone, but the disease made my teenage years even harder. My symptoms started to show between the ages of 11 and 13. I remember coming home from school in tears, frustrated that I couldn’t participate in physical activities with my friends. I had to use a scooter between classes and I felt like less of a person.
Things improved slightly throughout high school. I found a great group of friends at the school newspaper and on the Model United Nations team. I realized I could be just as involved in other activities without using my muscles.
I’ve been a football fan since I watched former Texas Longhorns quarterback Vince Young hustle past the pylon in the game’s final seconds to win the 2006 Rose Bowl against my USC Trojans. So, when I started high school, I wanted to be involved with the team somehow. With a push of encouragement from my dad, I met with the coach the summer before my freshman year. I helped keep the practice schedule, note stats during the game, and film. My most important role was providing motivational quotes for my team at the end of practice and some games.