Essential Tremor Has Made Me Adaptable and Determined

Each semester, the International Essential Tremor Foundation (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 spring 2019 scholarship recipients.

By Brogan Speraw,
Ohio University

Essential tremor has affected me in multiple ways. The first and most significant of these is that it provided me with the determination I have today. My tremors have been a constant struggle in my life. The simple tasks of filling in the bubbles of a test, feeding myself a bowl of soup, and tying my shoes were always a challenge. When I was younger, I was persistently frustrated by my condition until one day my brother told me to approach it like a game. Being the child I was, I refused to lose any game and aspired to find a solution to every conflict thrown in my path. It gave me a new outlook and an inner need to beat my tremor any way I could. Eventually, this “game” became routine, and I began applying it to other facets of my life such as academics, sports and my other extracurricular activities. This strategy evolved into a way of life, fueling me with the motivation to accomplish everything I did, or at the very least, put my best efforts into it.

spring 2019 scholarship winner brogan speraw

Furthermore, my tremors have also given me the skills of adaptability, a strength that has impressed my professors and colleagues alike. When hit with adversity, I find a way to succeed. I attribute that entirely to my tremors and the support of my family. For example, in 2017, my group in the introduction to engineering class was confronted by a sudden problem. Our assignment: an elevator of our own design, built by myself and my team. This was not only our final, but also a competition among teams to see who could lift the most weight up one meter in the shortest amount of time. On the final test day, our elevator was doing wonderfully until the time came for the judging. Our elevator failed twice and we were allotted two additional attempts to both fix our elevator and pass the assignment. On our third attempt, it almost failed again due to a soldering malfunction. To resolve the issue, I simply forced the wires into their proper position. The payload fell for an instant before quickly rising again, resulting in finishing third place for my team and I. This was a prime situation to present my adaptability.

Finally, my tremors have given me an invaluable asset in life: thick skin. This is an important skill for anyone to have, but for someone with any sort of disability in public school systems, this is necessary. The ability to take comments about you and just let them go is vital in my experience. Honestly, it was difficult at times, but I learned that it was easier than attempting to pursue any aggressive retaliation. This skill was mastered through trial and error. By learning to let hurtful people and situations go, I’m glad to state that it has aided me immensely with making and maintaining valuable, honest friendships and relationships.

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Applications are being accepted for fall 2019 scholarships from the IETF.  If you are a current or incoming college student with essential tremor, complete the application on the IETF website. The application deadline is May 1, 2019.

I Can’t Be Rehabilitated from Having ET; But It Gives Me an Advantage to Helping Others

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 spring 2019 scholarship recipients.

By Madison Young,
Arkansas Tech University

I turned 20 last month and read a list of 20 things every 20-year-old should know. Number 17 was “There Is No Roadmap.” That is very true. I can look back now and remember standing at certain crossroads and wondering which way to turn. Different paths have different benefits and obstacles. You can hardly see 20 yards down the path sometimes. As I look back on just a few of my turns, I realize that having essential tremor (ET) has had an impact on the choices I have made in direction, not in a negative way but an impact all the same.

Madison Young, IETF scholarship recipient

Having ET does affect my life in a variety of ways. Some tasks are simply harder than they would be if my hands and arms would just be still. Plus, when the tremors take over my body, I get a little embarrassed because everyone notices, then they try to act as if they didn’t. It seems like there is a polite protocol for noticing something different about other people.

One of the turns ET has led me to make is my field of study in college. I am a rehabilitation science major planning on moving into physical therapy. Unlike people I will eventually treat/help, I can’t be rehabilitated from having ET. But it certainly causes me to relate. It gives me an advantage to helping others over someone who has never had an obstacle to overcome. I understand to some extent what it is like to be viewed as different.

In all of my classes we talk about people with disabilities, and the main point always made is most people have disabilities, but not always visible disabilities. We are all “disabled” in our own way. Some disabilities you notice right away and some you don’t. Being diagnosed with ET at such an early age has helped me learn a lot about human nature. I just want to be able to help people live the most normal lives possible.

Currently there is no cure for ET. I am ok with that. I am at peace with who I am and ET doesn’t define me or what I can accomplish. In my classes, I am learning how to help others reach that point and just deal with the situation in a positive manner. It is an empowering feeling to be able to help someone. And when you are helping someone, and they connect with you because you aren’t perfect either, it makes it all worth it. Yes, having ET has changed my life and my path, but I believe it is for the better.

It has been almost six years since my diagnosis and I can’t help but wonder where I will be at age 26. What will I be doing and how will my tremors have progressed? While there is no roadmap, there is a road seen clearly in hindsight. I hope I always remember to look back at my turns in life that have made the difference.

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Applications are being taken for fall 2019 scholarships from the IETF.  If you are a current or incoming college student with essential tremor, complete the application on the IETF website. The application deadline is May 1, 2019.

IETF Welcomes New Executive Director

Catherine Rice webThe IETF Board of Directors announces that after 18 years of leadership, Catherine S. Rice is retiring as Executive Director of the organization.  Throughout her tenure, Cathy has increased the IETF’s reach to over 100,000 people around the world.  Cathy, along with now retired Kansas House Representative Dennis Moore, in 2010 achieved formal designation for the month of March as National Essential Tremor Awareness Month.  In the last 10 years, she has facilitated 380 free ET patient education events in cities across the U.S., educating over 35,000 people.  Cathy also established a college scholarship program for students having a diagnosis of ET, as well as an ET research grant program that has awarded $1 million, thus far, for promising ET studies conducted by medical investigators.  We cannot thank her enough for her vision, dedication, and commitment to the IETF.

Patrick photoTo continue our desire to further our mission, the Board is pleased to announce Patrick McCartney as the new IETF Executive Director, effective Aug. 17, 2015.  Patrick brings over 20 years of experience with non-profit organizations.  He most recently served as the Executive Director of the Kansas City Kansas Community College Endowment Association.  Previously, Patrick was Vice President of Marketing at the Kansas City Kansas Chamber of Commerce.  His work experience focused on board relations, fiscal management, marketing and communications, and fundraising.  Please join us in welcoming Patrick to the IETF.  With your support, we are confident that he will continue the excellence of the IETF.

One of Cathy’s passions at the IETF was to recognize the achievements of students dealing with ET.  To honor and help continue Cathy’s work with college students, the Board is pleased to announce the establishment of the Catherine S. Rice Scholarship Fund.  This fund will be used to award four scholarships to deserving students both in the fall and winter semesters.  For anyone wishing to recognize the dedication of Cathy, the Board encourages donations to this fund, in her honor.  Information about the fund is available at www.essentialtremor.org/scholarships or 1-888-387-3667. Donations and/or notes to Cathy can also be mailed to IETF, C/O Catherine S. Rice Scholarship Fund, PO Box 14005, Lenexa, KS  66285-4005.