"Is that your nurse?"
It is a common question fielded by strangers to this wheelchair-bound young man. An innocent enough question, but one that highlights general ignorance.
Mr Shane Burcaw, 22, often finds himself explaining that the attractive able-bodied women beside him is his girlfriend, Miss Anna Reinalda.
Mr Burcaw's blog is called Laughing At My Nightmare. On it, he wrote: "If I saw two young people out having a nice meal together, I would probably assume that they were dating. This, however, does not seem to be the assumption people make when you throw a wheelchair into the picture."
The American columnist and author, who has been diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, has been in a wheelchair since he was three-years-old.
This muscle-weakening disease causes the nerve cells responsible for controlling the body's muscle to deteriorate. People with his disease die in their 20s or 30s.
He is very aware of his own mortality. But he approaches it with humour.
"If I had to deal with my life and my situation without humour, I would be in a very different place."
When people do question the relationship with Anna, the couple have cultivated some sharp replies.
From Miss Reinalda: "He's my dad."
From Mr Burcaw: "I just pay her to be my friend."
But before he went to college, he had fallen into the assumption that a loving relationship was out of reach, and any dates he did get would simply be out of pity.
He was wrong.
In an essay, he writes: "Today, I live with the firm belief that an able/disabled relationship can be even more satisfying than your average romance."
Shane explains that his condition does not affect on his ability to have a sexual relationship.
In a video by Soul Pancake titled My Last Days, he even quips: "All my muscles are really weak... except for my penis."
"Sure, I can't hold hands in the traditional sense, but we make it work. To be fair, our fingers look like a catastrophic train wreck once they are intertwined in the precise position that I can manage. I can't pick her up in my car, but so what? She enjoys driving and so we make it work."
This article was first published on February 23, 2015.
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