Excerpt for Defying the Odds: C.P. & Me by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Many people see us smiling but they do not really know how we go about our daily lives. They have multiple opinions about us. While it seems that everything in our lives is either perfect or miserable, they hardly take time to listen to us. This book will make you laugh, cry, smile frown and think. But more than anything you will understand what goes on in our day to day life. I love it.

- Rene Lambert (Cerebral Palsy) Student, East Hartford High, Connecticut (Formerly of The STEP Centre, Jamaica)

Before we were born the Lord knew who we were going to be.

Before we were born he had a great vision for us you see.

Before we were born he knew all that would be said and done.

But he gave us each a heart with the strength to overcome.

When I read this book, I got to see and understand how versatile our God is with his creation of mankind. How each one of us have our own story to tell and how every story is unique in its own way. This story about this young girl speaks wonders of her life, the troubles and trials, the happy and sad moments, the faith and the hope, the fear and the courage that she has. This book is a motivation to all, it will teach you that no matter what happens in life, no matter what the circumstances are, life can be anything you want it to be as long as you believe.

- Melissa Meghoo Special Education Teacher (B. Ed.) Liberty Academy, Kingston. Jamaica

Defying the Odds, CP and Me is a heart-warming publication. Composing GiGi’s story using poetry allows the reader to be drawn into the thoughts and emotions of this young lady and experience her daily life with Cerebral Palsy. Though the poems are simply structured, the intensity and depth of this young lady leap off the page with each poem and convey her tenacity as well as her vulnerability. GiGi is an extraordinary young person who has fears, concerns, dreams and goals as any other young adult about life, love and living. This book is both educational and inspirational. Anyone who reads this creation will not be the same at the end. It takes you on a journey of education, compassion, introspection and decision. You will be moved by every poem.

- Cheryl Riley Guidance Counsellor and Educator

Gianni’s book is informative, educational, expressive, poetic, revealing and touching.

It is a must read for everyone (parents, caregivers, teachers, uncles, aunts and friends) who relate to anyone who has cerebral palsy (CP). Gianni’s expressions represent that of many “voiceless” children, teens and adults with CP.

The book reveals the thoughts, ideas, aspirations and feelings, as well as the brilliance, creativity and wonder of these “voiceless” geniuses.

Hopefully, when you read this book you will have a better appreciation of the minds of those with CP and ultimately it will assist you to forge a better relationship with them.

- Richard Blackwood Parent of Teen with CP STEP Centre PTA Executive Member

"Defying the Odds: CP and Me" is a moving collection of thoughts and poems written about an insightful and courageous young woman with first-hand experience about the challenges of growing up and living with cerebral palsy. People with disability deserved to be recognized as human beings with limitless potential. Many more will be, thanks to GiGi's inspirational poetry.

- Sarah Lowell Faculty Western Carolina University-Cullowhee NC

Copyright ©2018 by Chevonette James-Henry

Defying the Odds: C.P. and Me / Chevonette James-Henry

All poems inspired by Gianni Vassell Printed by ChevHen Press


ISBN: 978-1-947671-98-0

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher.

Cover and Interior Design:

D.E. West, ZAQ Designs / Dust Jacket Creative Services Printed in the United States of America

Published by Dust Jacket Press at Smashwords

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


I share my daily life with an exceptional group of children and teenagers at the STEP Centre (School of Therapy and education of Parents of Children with Multiple Disabilities) who show amazing strength, fortitude, courage and character daily. Amielle Brown was one of them. A true angel who will live on forever in our hearts. We dedicate this

book to her memory.

Amielle Nimali Brown

Aug. 2, 2005 - Nov. 17, 2017


This journey started in the classroom when Auntie Chev my teacher and the writer of this book had me writing my thoughts and feelings in a journal. I had no idea that she would take the themes from my journal to make beautiful poems about my life and journey.

Thank you, Auntie Chev. You took my words and make it into a book. Though I speak with a slur you gave me a voice. You made my dream of motivating others like me a reality. You believed in me when I did not believe in myself. You restore my faith in ‘life.’ I have no words to express how much I love you.

Thank you for teaching me that



……. #IHaveAVoice GiGi


T A B L E o f C O N T E N T S









The Team



Cerebral Palsy

Did You Know?

Chapter 2: MEET GIGI


Who I Should’ve Been

Chapter 3: CP & ME

. But CP


Don’t Mock Me

Don’t Stare

Don’t Feel Sorry for Me

It’s Just Life

Physical Therapy


I Love My Chair…. But

Come Talk with Me

Chapter 5: MY EMOTIONS



That Boy

I Need a Friend


My Wish List

My Bucket List

Chapter 7: ADULTHOOD

Finally, 18

Runway Fever

The New Me


After 21…What?


Life without Limits

God’s Plan

The Eagle


Dare to Dream

Chapter 9: NOT ALONE



Awesome Dad

My Hero

We 3

Miss P




My Dove (a Mother`s Heart)

My Queen (a Father`s Heart)


Chapter 11: SCHOOL


Angels They Are

Chapter 12: FULL




Chapter 13: FROM MY HEART

Let Us Live

Be Brave

#EveryoneHasAVoice (Our Class)

Trapped (Our Class)

The System

Chapter 14: FOR YOU MOM

Mother’s Day Out

Chapter 15: TRIBUTES

Be Encouraged (Joi-Ann Henry)

Dear Jesus (Joi-Ann Henry)

Though You Sit in a Wheelchair (ChevHen)

A Tribute to a Friend (Rene Lambert)

#BBB (Rene Lambert)



Defying the Odds



These poems are a fascinating merging of the mind and soul of two unique individuals: Gianni Vassell (GIGI) a student with Cerebral Palsy and her teacher/mentor, Ms. Chevonette James-Henry. Giving voice to the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of another person is a remarkable endeavor. But that is what Ms. Vassell and Ms. James-Henry have been able to do through these remarkable poems.

You will find in these poems, what many of us in the field of education, particularly those of us working with individuals with disabilities, have sought to understand; the true fears and triumphs of those individuals who reside in circumstances far different from our own. Although Gigi’s life experiences are unique, what often becomes evident through the poems are the emotional parallels of any young teenage woman. The words within each poem are powerful reminders that our existence, our humanity resides in all our diverse natures.

Because each of the poems take on separate issue, it allows the reader to engage in the work in ways that are most meaningful to everyone. Each poem is prefaced by powerful words from Ms. Vassell that introduces the subject matter of the following poem, which Ms. James-Henry then turns into powerful imagery.

Too often we lose sight of the humanity of each individual and particularly when those individuals are different from us. The poems draw on the dreams, aspirations and reality of this young woman. The poems are so personal and raw and, at times, painful to read. At other times the poems will make you laugh to your core. Together, they paint a picture of the indomitable spirit of one individual.

There is a fearsome clarity to the work. The poems will make you uncomfortable and hopeful at the same time. This is what we should often ask of important words and that is what you will get reading these poems. You will be a different person at the end.

- Dr. Tom Oren

Associate Professor Special Education

Western Carolina University-Cullowhee


Gianni and I are very thankful to God who enabled us to take a classroom project and transform it into a great work of art. We thank Him for providing direction and motivation every step of the way.

We want to express gratitude to Tesha Thompson who edited the book, Michelle Doyley and Venise Green-Hylton for the invaluable support they provided and to all those friends who prayed for us, provided support, talked things over with us, read, wrote and offered comments.

Gianni thanks profusely her parents Nicholas and Charmaine Matthews, her dad Tim Vassel, her brother Malik and her sister Mia, for their unconditional love, loyalty and sup- port. She wants to express gratitude to Miss Pauline Carty who has been her caregiver since she was two years old.

I want to thank my husband Andrew, my children Jon-Mark, Jor-Dan and Joi-Ann, who were sounding boards for each poem written and who supported and encouraged me despite all the time it took me away from them.

Last and not least we want to express a big thank you to those who have been with us over the course of this journey and whose names we have failed to mention.


The most powerful lessons in life are those that inspire us. Inspiration when it is discovered is a profound vehicle which can propel us to radical, new and greater possibilities.

Chevonette Henry

Whether you are a person with a disability or know someone who is, this book is intended to help you see firsthand the realities of living with a severe condition. With the spotlight on Cerebral Palsy you’ll meet Gianni Vassel (GiGi), an engaging eighteen-year-old who lives with the reality of CP daily. Written from her perspective this book will answer many of the questions you may have but have been too scared or uncomfortable to ask.

You will meet her, interact with her and perhaps get to know her. You will enjoy her intelligence, sharpness and wit, you will also be privy to her fears, tears, weaknesses, strengths, obstacles, achievements, problems and solutions.

As you go through each poem you will discover some of the facts concerning cerebral palsy and some of the myths surrounding it. You will experience the complex and rewarding journey that parents and children with cerebral palsy embark on daily.

Most importantly though, you will see how Gianni’s amazing strength, character and fortitude have allowed her to defy her disability and her unwillingness to allow it to impair her potential.

Written in poetic form it provides an easy and engaging read.

Whilst the objective of the book is to raise awareness of cerebral palsy, it’s desire is for each reader to understand that:

There are disabilities of many kind

but the greatest disability is that of the human mind

not the absence of a limb

or been confined to a chair

not rigid muscles, or speech badly slurred.


a refusal to rise

to realize

the indomitable spirit

that lies


. each of us.

(excerpt from ‘Rise’ page)


We make a great team

Auntie Chev and I

I’m surprised how her presence at STEP

Has forever changed my life.

She made me face my fears

Not cowering and hide

She tells me everyday

That I have ‘greatness inside.’

Auntie Chev formulated a great plan

To help me realize who I am.

She pointed me in a new direction

This has brought much satisfaction.

The plan worked more than I can say

See a book is now on the way.

She made me write, write everyday

Even when I felt I had nothing more to say.

‘You have to put it down, get it out of your head’

I was sometimes annoyed when these things she said.

She made me watched others who are just like me

Those videos became my inspiration as I began to see

who I could be.

I am not a cripple, worthless and useless

I am a ‘great one’

Without shackles


Auntie Chev you have made me strong and growing

stronger still

I will make you proud, Auntie I tell you ‘I will.’

I wish all children with disability

Had a teacher just like you

Who would nurture and inspire them

To keep on pushing through

Then they would know there’s nothing they

can’t pursue.

I love you Auntie Chev

I really, really do.



Cerebral Palsy (pronounced seh-ree-brel pawl-zee) is a blanket term commonly described by loss or impairment of motor function. Cerebral Palsy is caused by brain injury or brain malformation that occurs before, during, or immediately after birth while the infant’s brain is under development.

How a brain injury affects a child’s motor functioning and intellectual abilities is highly dependent on the nature of a brain injury, where the damage occurs, and how severe it is. Cerebral Palsy affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. It can also impact fine motor skills, gross motor skills and oral motor functioning.

Life with CP is difficult. The battles you fight especially with your motor functions are daily and consistent.



Cerebral Palsy, called C.P for short

Is not a death sentence but living with it is hard.

Sitting in my chair all day long

Wishing I could get out or even stand.

Sometimes I feel stuck, in a rut

With nowhere to go.

CP sometimes wants to take my dignity

By taking captive my thoughts and vulnerability.

telling me I am




Means nothing to this world I call home.

CP makes me feel helpless

At the mercy of everyone else




On someone to help me out.

That’s not cool

I feel useless

Wishing life was not so unfair.

But I have news for CP

It will not make me a prisoner, it will not enslave me

it will not kill my spirit I will fight

I will live

I will achieve

I will be happy.


Cerebral Palsy is a chronic disability

Everyday challenges are my reality

Rehabilitation is a crucial part of my therapy, so

Exercises are sometimes brutal but a necessity.

Bravery is a daily tool

Realism a useful rule

Amazing, my family has been to me

Loving me unconditionally.


Passionate I have become

Always reaching beyond the sun

Living life without limitations

Staying the course despite my condition

Yearning daily to be all that I know I can.


Do you know that Cerebral Palsy is a disability otherwise called CP?

That it is a group of chronic disorder which affects our motor ability?

Do you know that CP may slow cognitive development and in some cases, cause sensory impairment?

That it’s symptoms ranges from child to child that some may be severe, some may be mild?

Do you know that we suffer from stiffness otherwise called hypertonia?

which causes difficulty keeping balance, preventing walking alone?

Do you know that we have involuntary movement, and sometimes we twitch

and that some like me are not able to grasp due to the clenching of the fist?

Do you know that there are different types of CP which decides our functionality?

That tense, contracted muscles are called spastic poor sense of balance is called ataxic

and variable movement that is involuntary are dyskinetic?

Do you know CP affects you in different ways? it determines how you live day to day?

It determines your posture, how you stand, lean and sit it affects you balance, your ability to move with it?

That it affects how you communicate, eat, sleep and learn. and above all it affects your future, your ability to live independently and earn?



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