A Rolling Bride: Part I


by Tammy Wilber
Tammy in her Abilities Expo 2009 fashion show
wedding gown, when Cameron first saw his future bride!


As a little girl, I dreamed about what my wedding day would be like. Who will be my Prince Charming and will I live happily ever after? The answer is this: I do have a fairytale ending, but the story turned out much differently than I expected. The introduction to my story starts like this:

“In a kingdom far, far away lives a 35-year-old princess named Tammy. She is going to be a bride for the first time. She never imagined that, on her wedding day, instead of walking down the aisle next to her father, she would be she would be rolling down the aisle in her wheelchair.”

Cameron and Tammy
On April 18, 2011 I got engaged to Cameron Stay, but it took quite a journey to get to this magnificent day. In 1993 I sustained a spinal cord injury that left me paralyzed from the chest down. This injury obviously had a significant impact on my entire life, including where dating was concerned.

When I was first injured, I wondered who was going to love a girl in a wheelchair. Then as I started dating, I went through the typical ups and downs in relationships. I have attracted some strange guys over the years and have dated the bad boy, the Jerry Seinfeld look-alike, and even someone covered head to toe in tattoos. What hurt the most was years ago when I was interested in someone whom I had known a long time, and he was honest enough to tell me it was just too difficult to date someone in a wheelchair.  It was very tough for me to accept these words because I had no control over having a disability and realized that anyone I dated had to accept the whole package or I needed to move on.

I have never really had a “type” of guy because I felt that when you are in a wheelchair, sometimes your choices are limited. Nonetheless, I still had standards. I always found guys that I dated fell into three categories:  1) They worked in the medical field, 2) They knew someone already in a wheelchair, or 3) They just didn’t care about my disability. What always bothered me the most was when people made assumptions about my dating life and assumed I only dated guys in wheelchairs. I took offense to a statement like that because I hated being judged and I felt like they were saying that an able-bodied person would never be with me. What I could have never predicted was that it didn’t matter if the person was in a wheelchair or not; love is love! In my “happily ever after,” instead of Prince Charming riding up on his horse to save me, he sat in a silver wheelchair!

Cameron and I met two years ago at the Abilities Expo in Anaheim, California. I was there to model adaptive women’s clothing in a wheelchair fashion show. Cameron attended the Abilties Expo to learn more about the disability community since he was only three years post-injury. While at the Expo, Cameron made his way over to the fashion show and saw me on the runway wearing a white silky skirt with a matching white top. After I added a flower to my hair, people said I looked like a bride. When Cameron saw me, he said I took his breath away, and he thought to himself, “I’ll take that one!” Then, at the Expo, Cameron and I met and exchanged information. I went back to Seattle and he went back to Las Vegas. We become instant friends through social networks, a few phone calls, and then I moved to Las Vegas two years later for a job. I ended up moving right down the road from Cameron, and for a few months he was perisistent and asked me out a few times, but I just wanted to be friends. However, once I realized what an amazing guy he was I didn’t want anyone else to get him, so I finally agreed to a date and we have been inseperatable ever since.   

When Cameron proposed to me, the scene was right out of a movie, except the leading couple used wheelchairs. We went back to the place where our love story began and attended the 2011 Abilities Expo. On the pier at sunset by our hotel in Hermosa Beach, Cameron used a bench to lower himself out of his wheelchair, and to the best of his ability got down on one knee, took my hand and asked me to marry him. I immediatley said yes!
After Cameron's proposal to Tammy
Cameron and I have bonded because of our disabilities; however we are just two goofy kids in love. We have learned how to adapt to our challenges of being a couple where we’re both wheelchair users, but doing so has also made us stronger. Years ago, when I dreamed of my wedding and my prince, I didn’t think that person would be in a wheelchair, but when you love someone, you love all of them.    

There are advantages to being with someone in a wheelchair because you will never have to look up at them, and there are always enough medical supplies to go around. Or if my tire should get a flat, I can transfer onto his lap and Cameron can give me a ride. We can share and participate in many activities geared towards people with disabilities. Yet, despite all the advantages, there are disadvantages: grocery shopping with two people in wheelchairs is not easy. Cleaning is a challenge when both one of us can’t reach very high. Moreover, two disabilties add up financially. We have discussed ways to make our lives easier, but everything costs so much. I would love to renovate his kitchen to make it bigger for both of us, but it is too expensive. A mini-van would also make life easier but who has forty thousand dollars to spend? Right now Cameron has a truck and it takes us forever to get and out, but we manage. We will continue to figure things out and adapt as we move forward with wedding planning and our future.

It has now been a few months since our engagement and we are a little slow in the aspect of wedding planning. We are trying to get all our ducks in a row and take then next step, moving in together in January! Although, this slow-paced planning hasn’t kept me from looking for a wedding dress because, “It’s all about the dress!” I took a trip to David’s Bridal with my mom and future mother-in-law. It was quite an adventure trying on those dresses because it takes an army to put a gigantic wedding dress on a paraplegic. After the first couple of dresses, my mom and Denise realized it was easier to lay the wedding gowns on the front of me and then if it looked like a possibility, we would fight our way through my leg spasms and all the dress material. After a couple of hours, we were all exhausted from wedding dress shopping and, just when I thought I found the wedding gown I wanted, I went back a couple days later and found the dress I truly knew I wanted to wear as I married Cameron.
Cameron and Tammy
The next step in my wedding planning is location, location, location and trying to figure out how to pay for this wedding. We do know that we want a beach-themed wedding with the idea of certain things to represent the earth and water. We also know it is going to be for 50 people. I look forward to the next few months of planning and getting some more details in order, but for now I am just going to let things fall into place. So stay tuned for my subsequent article, as I look forward to sharing more details of my engagement, wedding planning and being a bride who just happens to be sitting down!


Tammy is working as a Clinical Admin Coordinator at United Health Group in Las Vegas. Visit her website at http://teamcamtam.blogspot.com and send Tammy an email at Tammywheels@yahoo.com.

5 comments:

  1. The story is beautiful... I just learned something new... love, Pat

    ReplyDelete
  2. A well told Fairy Tale. I can't wait to see the Happily Ever After!!! The most amazing part about this story is the Princess. What an amazing woman you are and I admire you for all you have done!
    I love you both.
    Love,
    Amy

    ReplyDelete
  3. Tammy
    I love the story and think it needs to be heard
    I am actualy engaged to the love of my life who happens to have a complete c-5 spinal cord injury, we are getting married 11-11-11 and all of your concerns are hers as well. I dont have a spinal cord injury. and on a daily basis she inspires me to work harder and realise there is nothing we cant do together. she is a full time student working towords a phd psycology/socialogy and wants to work with newly injured people. she will be fantastic.

    BARRY TURNER-FIND ME ON FACEBOOK

    ReplyDelete

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