RESPOSTED from The Time Tribune
By Ian Weir 
Published: May 10, 2016

After being paralyzed from the waist down as a teenager, reality TV star and inspirational speaker Mia Schaikewitz says she could have let herself sink into self pity. Instead, she lives her life by the motto, “Believing in yourself means never having to say ‘I can’t.’”

On Thursday, Ms. Schaikewitz spoke to a group of patients, staff and community members at Allied Services’ Luger Rehab Center in Scranton about how she has embraced her disability, and how she has grown from an angry teenager to the happy, successful woman she is today. About 30 people attended the talk held in the rehab center’s Graf Community Room.

The key, Ms. Schaikewitz told the audience, is to never give up.

“Fear will disable you, courage will enable you,” she said.

After a rare disorder caused nerve damage in her spinal cord when she was 15, Ms. Schaikewitz said that she had to learn how to live all over again. At first, she was afraid and unsure of how her life would turn out. But the day before she was released from inpatient therapy, she made the decision to take control.

“We all have those moments where we’re in the dark and we can’t see the light,” she said. “We all have the choice to eventually turn it on.”

Ms. Schaikewitz said that the many successes in her life have been a direct result of that decision to not let her disability stand in her way.

When she graduated from high school, Ms. Schaikewitz attended the University of Florida and became the first woman in a wheelchair to join a sorority in the school’s history. After college, she moved to Los Angeles where she worked as a studio manager in the music industry and eventually landed a spot on Sundance Channel’s TV show “Push Girls.”

The show followed Ms. Schaikewitz and three of her friends — who are also in wheelchairs — and showed that they are normal people living normal lives despite their circumstances.

“It was an amazing experience,” she said of the show.

Ms. Schaikewitz says that one of the main reasons she enjoyed being on the show so much was that she was able to be a visible example to young disabled people. She said that she hopes that her example can help kids be more confident and show able-bodied people that different does not mean bad.

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iweir@timesshamrock.com