Living With CMT - Laurel's Story
Hello! I am Laurel Richardson, a 51 year old, young at heart, person living with CMT (Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease). I am originally from Cincinnati but moved to Scottsdale with my family when I was 10. I spent many years out west before moving to Wilmington, NC in 1998. My wonderful husband, Chris, and I fell in love with the coastal southeast when he was stationed here during his career in the Marine Corps.
I am a mom to two pretty cool kids: Sophie is 19 and a sophomore in college and Jack is 17 and a senior in high school. I am on staff at the CMTA (Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association) and spearhead some really neat initiatives like working with our team to plan patient-focused conferences, monthly education meetings, and local branch meetings. I help to support our national volunteer base of base branch leaders from across the country. I am the liaison to the CMTA Centers of Excellence and work closely with the advisory board. My most favorite role of all is co-leading Camp Footprint every summer for one week in August. It is the most fun week of the year!
When I’m not working, I love to spend time with my family, read, cook, and most of all travel, travel, travel.
Diagnosis and Journey with CMT
I was diagnosed with CMT (1A) when I was 6 because I couldn’t walk on my heels well and my pediatrician knew my Dad had CMT so they tested me. I was really not symptomatic when I was younger; just a slow runner and a bit clumsy.
CMT has definitely impacted my life, but it hasn’t slowed me down too much. The most challenging part of my CMT journey was in my mid-30’s when my drop-foot developed and I was taking terrible and dangerous falls. I found myself on the sidelines of life and that was not acceptable to me. It took me a long time but I decided to start wearing AFOs when I was 41.
This was a life-improving decision for me! I could walk better, farther, anxiety-free, and began to dabble in a couple of my favorite sports again, like tennis. After being incredibly stubborn about wearing AFO’s, I fell in love with them. They took me everywhere I wanted and needed to go in life! I was no longer on the sidelines which felt awesome.
My family has been a remarkable and loving source of support for me in my journey. My mom and dad loved me right through all the challenges and never treated me like a wounded bird for which I am so grateful. My dad, aunt, and sister all have CMT. We completely relate to one another and find laughter in the frustrating moments.
My dad is my CMT hero because he has never allowed CMT to get him down. He is a pillar of positivity and I’m so thankful to him for modeling that behavior for me. He continues to be a source of strength even at the age of 77. He’s amazing! As I have aged and progressed with CMT, my husband and children continue to love me unconditionally, and they know CMT is the least interesting thing about me. I am incredibly blessed with a loving family and friends.
Encouragement - Having A Positive Attitude
One of my strengths that has gotten me through every challenge I’ve experienced in life is my attitude. It is my personal opinion that the attitude you take to navigate a situation is reflected in the outcome. For example, I can wake up every day and feel really angry about having to wear braces to walk around or I can feel incredibly thankful that there is a solution to my problem.
One of my favorite quotes that I carry with me every day is:
"A great attitude becomes a great mood. Which becomes a great day. Which becomes a great year. Which becomes a great life. "
Everyone is going to have something hard and painful in their life to overcome. How we navigate that “something” makes all the difference in the outcome. I choose positivity and purpose. We only get one chance to live the life we want so don’t waste that time feeling angry about CMT - find your way to happiness and then spread that joy around to others.
Laurel joined the staff of the CMTA four years ago and is responsible for spearheading all education and community programs. She also acts as liaison to the CMTA Centers of
Excellence, chairs the advisory board and oversees the CMTA’s educational materials. She and her family live in Wilmington, NC. When she is not working, Laurel enjoys time with her family traveling, eating, reading, and spending time outdoors.