“My spine is torn, and I have several crushed discs in my back. The discs being crushed/collapsed are actually what’s holding my spine together. I also have four spine disorders and a nerve disorder, which will eventually leave me permanently paralyzed from the waist down,” Tanya Dudley shares. “Currently I have partial paralysis. Some days I wake up and have no feeling in my legs, or when my legs give out on me, and I can’t walk, I use a wheelchair.”
Tanya, a stud who identifies more as male, could never forget the day everything changed. In 1999, while at the school where he worked, Tanya jumped between falling bookcases and a student.
The bookcases fell on top of him crushing his spine against the sharp edge of a desk. Doctors told him he would never walk again.
Tanya came close to giving up on walking, on finding love and even giving up on life, but with encouragement from his family he hung on.
Learning to Trust Again
Tanya had been married before and divorced. And after the divorce, he stopped dating and stopped looking. He had known of people who said they could handle a disability or having someone with a major life change/ injury.
“The truth is they often can’t, or it becomes too much on top of everything else. So for that reason I don’t let people in or tell them my story,” Tanya says. “I decided that I didn’t trust anyone with my disability, so I just stayed alone by choice for a long time.”
When a mutual friend introduced them, Tanya was cautious and gave Ebony a bit of a hard time.
“I was informed from the beginning that he was on crutches and from time to time uses a wheelchair,” Ebony shares. “After spending endless hours on the phone with each other (at the time we were living on opposite coasts) and developing feelings for each other, he revealed the severity of his disability.”
His Disability Didn’t Scare Ebony off
“She was different,” Tanya says. “Right from the start, Ebony promised me that as long as I gave her the real me and true love that her love and strength would be enough for the both of us. I have to say she’s absolutely right.”
It didn’t take long for Tanya to realize that Ebony was the one. “I’ve always been taught to follow my instincts/gut feelings and to listen to my spirit. Right away my spirit and the assurances she gave me, told me that she’s all that I could ever ask for and to make her my wife. So if GOD is willing on April 8, 2017, I plan to do just that.”
It’s Not Easy, but It’s Worth It
Ebony didn’t take getting into a relationship with Tanya lightly. She had seen her mother battle cancer.
“I knew that to move forward with our relationship; I was agreeing to take on everything that comes with the disability,” Ebony shares. “I also knew that the love we had for each was something I’d never experienced, and there was no way I was going to lose what we had.”
So Ebony moved from California to Connecticut to be with Tanya. Now that they are living together, she says it is harder than she expected. No matter how difficult it has been, Tanya says not once has Ebony complained or walked out or given up.
“It scares me to know that one day, at any given time, my fiancé will no longer be able to walk,” Ebony shares. “But not because he will be more dependent on me, but because I know how much it’s going to hurt him.”
When asked how they are making their relationship work, Ebony says, “Are there times that he can’t physically do what he wants? Yes. Does it get hard to see him upset because he feels like he’s a burden? Yes. Does it get hard to see the man inside beating himself up because he can’t go to work and provide for his family? Yes. But if only one of us is capable, then that’s all we need because we are and will forever be one.”
Pride Sometimes Stands in the Way
Their strong love, bond and commitment carries this couple through their difficult days. Ebony helps Tanya get dressed, use the bathroom, cleans up his messes, puts the braces on Tanya’s legs and ties her shoes. Sometimes she even feeds Tanya.
“Sometimes my nerve disorder leaves me shaking to the point that I can’t hold a fork, spoon, cup or feed myself,” Tanya explains.
Tanya admits that it took some time to let down his guard. “It’s kinda hard for me because I’m very independent, stubborn and because pride often stands in the way, I don’t ask for help.”
Ebony adds, “At times I have to make him let me help him. Looking into his eyes, feeling his arms wrapped around me gives me the strength I need for both of us. Being with him has taught me to live life and enjoy each moment.”
Love is the Most Valuable Thing
Ebony says when she looks at Tanya she doesn’t see someone with a disability. “I have never considered myself in a relationship with someone with a disability just in a relationship with someone who truly loves me … the person the feeds my soul,” she says. “Call me crazy, but I have always believed that love is the most valuable thing a person can have, and I refuse to lose my blessing because of a disability.”
What Took Her So Long?
When asked about her love for Ebony, Tanya doesn’t hesitate. “I love all that she is and all that she’s on her way to becoming. I couldn’t ask for anything/anyone better.
The only thing I sometimes ask is where has she been all of my life? And what took her so long to become part of my life? She’s everything I’ve ever asked GOD for and more.”