You are not alone: Lisa's story

A personalised letter from 39 year-old hairdresser from Sheffield, Lisa Andrews with radial dysplasia, to everyone with the same condition

Dear World, 

My name is Lisa and I was born in the year of 1976 with radial dysplasia, an inherited condition that causes deformity in both of my hands. I know I'm different. I know that I have a condition that may set me aside from other people. But because I have been living with it my entire life, it doesn’t hold me back from living the rest of my life. Back when I was a baby, doctors did not know as much about my condition as they do now and this left me with little knowledge of my capabilities while I was growing up. I was never bullied as such, but I was treated differently, and this made me feel insecure as a child.

Growing up has not only given me the vital education I needed, but it also taught me that just because someone labels you as "disabled" that doesn't mean you are.

 This pushed me to challenge myself in any way I could to show everyone in my situation they can accomplish anything they set their mind to, whether they have a full pair of hands or not. 

This newfound confidence came from discovering a charity called Reach that offer advice and support through research and resources for adults and children with a similar condition. They aim to raise awareness of upper limb difference, encourage children to reach their potential and support families. This charity has done all of that and more for me.

I was really overwhelmed when I first found out how many people out there have the same condition. I was like "oh my God, I know I'm not the only one now" because I've gone through all my life not knowing anybody or seen anybody in the same sort of situation.

I've never even met anybody or seen pictures of anybody until I found out about Reach last year. This has changed my attitude towards my condition, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to accomplish something that would prove everyone wrong about my abilities.

With this decision, I hope to smash my target donation by raising £2000 for my JustGiving page. I'm also training for and participating in the Tough Mudder 2016 challenge in August. I will be completing 23 different obstacle courses 12 miles around Skipton.

The most horrible feeling in my experience, was feeling like I was on my own in the world. I will be the first person to tell you, that this is not true. The catchline for Reach: "It's Ability Not Disability That Matters" couldn’t be more true. Most people assume having a limb defect is classed as disabled, but I am proof that you are able to do anything you want.

I was surprised and happy to have been labelled an inspiration by The Star. I don't think what I've done is particularly impressive, I have just done what  wanted to do. 

Just keep on challenging yourself and don't pay attention to what anybody else thinks. 

You can do anything you put your mind to.