Early on while growing up in Iowa, Finn Bullers could see he wasn’t as physically adept as other children his age, but didn’t know why.
“My parents were very adamant about not wanting to label my condition,” said now 51-year-old Bullers of Kansas City, Kansas, in a telephone interview. “But what I did know was that as a child playing football with the neighbor kids, I could never kick the ball into the air. Consequently, I would spend hours and hours trying to perfect my kicking skills while not realizing my (inability) was due to a physical condition.”
Eventually, Bullers learned he had a form of muscular dystrophy (MD), which the National Institutes of Health classifies as a group of more than 30 inherited diseases. All forms of MD cause progressive muscle weakness and muscle loss, and usually lead to an affected person being unable to walk. Bullers inherited MD from his mother.
He said, “(My parents) honestly did not give me a diagnosis for the same reason they didn’t believe in labeling me with the disease. ‘Can’t’ was a word we never used in our house and I carried that (same attitude) on in my life. I don’t blame my parents for taking that approach because, in the long run, it has made me a stronger person. I grew up as a strong-willed (rural) Iowan, in a place where you always caused your own problems, you never complained, you picked yourself up and dusted yourself off, and you didn’t make excuses for why you weren’t able to do something. Then you accomplished things.”
By his sophomore year in college, though, his disability had begun catching up with him. He could no longer walk across campus and make class in time, and so reached out to a local vocational rehabilitation office, which provided Bullers with financial assistance and taught adaptive skills.
During a nearly 30-year work career as a newspaper journalist, he went from using a cane to a walker, and then from a scooter to a power wheelchair. After stints with the Miami Herald and several Midwestern newspapers, he ultimately hung his hat at the Kansas City Star, covering county politics and suburban issues.
In 2009, he retired because of the constant strain of having MD and sometimes working 12-hour, deadline driven days. Along the way, he married and had two children.