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Facing Sight Loss With Hope & Grace

Facing Sight Loss With Hope & Grace featured image description is in the body of the post.

Facing Sight Loss With Hope & Grace

My sight loss journey has been long and sometimes painful; however, it has also been full of hope and grace.

Rebecca In Front Of
A Historic Building

I was born with cataracts on both of my eyes (bilateral congenital cataracts). Before I was a year old, I had nine eye surgeries to remove my cataracts and secondary membranes that grew in their place. I also had muscle surgery to keep my eyes from crossing.

When I was four, I developed glaucoma as a complication of surgery. Since my right eye had issues focusing, my doctor recommended eye patching. As a result, I wore an eye patch over my dominant eye for an entire year.

I’ve had fifteen eye surgeries as an adult. The scar tissue from all of these surgeries sometimes causes pain and discomfort.

I can only see colors and shapes out of my right eye and the field of vision in my left eye is severely limited. In addition to having no peripheral vision or depth perception, I also have severe migraines that center around my eyes. My vision fluctuates. On a good day, I can see 20/30 in my good eye with best correction. On a bad day, all I can see are clouds and shapes.

A New Dream & A New Purpose

In college, I suffered a crushing loss. My dream was to become a music teacher; however, an important music professor refused to teach me because he “didn’t teach students with disabilities.” His ableism caused me to need to change my major.

At the time, I was crushed by the loss of my dream. Eventually, I changed my major to English Education because I have always loved words. Sadly, I met resistance there as well. When I was student teaching, I was told, “We’re afraid to leave the students alone with a blind teacher.”

I believe that God put a new dream on my heart and helped to form a beautiful mosaic from the broken pieces of my life. I attended seminary in Washington D.C. and I am blessed to be able to say that I have now completed five years of effective ministry.

In May, my church covenanted with me to always provide me with a job and a congregation to serve. We call this “ordination.” It was one of the most special days of my life. I couldn’t stop smiling. At last, it seemed that I had found my place in the world and that my life had a purpose.

Glaucoma: The Silent Thief of Sight

Although I have been blessed to have benefitted from some of the best medical care in the country at Will’s Eye Institute in Philadelphia, my vision continues to wane. I take five eye drops four times a day and a pill three times a day in order to maintain my eye pressure.

Each year, I lose a little more vision. At thirty years of age, I’m unable to read a book with a regular sized font for any extended period of time. As a person who loves books, this loss is the most painful loss of all.

Beauty from Brokenness

Like many people who are disabled, I have a complicated relationship with my disability. I still have a long journey ahead of me to achieve full acceptance of my sight loss. For example, I only use my white cane when I travel because I need it for safety.

I don’t know what the future holds for me. I don’t know if I will someday become more comfortable using my white cane or if I will ever learn to read Braille; nevertheless, my heart is full of hope. The essence of my job is to share hope with a dark and broken world.

I am blessed to serve a congregation that I love dearly and a church that is striving to become a more inclusive place for people with disabilities. I am also blessed to have wonderfully supportive friends and a spouse who loves me very much.

One thing is for certain: Even with my blurry vision, I can see that the future is bright.

Rebecca Holland blogs about faith, diverse books, and disability awareness at BeckieWrites.com. She has written a chapbook entitled, Through My Good Eye: A Memoir in Verse.

Facing Sight Loss With Hope & Grace Featured Image Description:

Rebecca grins broadly with her hand on her hip as she stands on the Millennium Bridge in London. St. Paul’s Cathedral can be seen behind her. She wears a bright green coat.

Rebecca In Front Of A Historic Building

Rebecca smiles while standing on the stone steps of a historic building. She is framed by a large wooden door. She wears a blue and green A-line dress. 

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2018 Hall Of Fame Dedication

2018 Hall of Fame Featured Image Description is in the body of the post.

2018 Hall Of Fame Dedication

So the other day I had this brilliant idea!! I thought why not send out an email to all the folks featured on Bold Blind Beauty in 2018. The ask was simple, or so I thought. But as brilliant ideas go I hadn’t thought of all kinks in my plan. Thank heavens everyone didn’t respond to my request because I’d be working on this project into 2030. However, even though everyone didn’t respond I’m nothing if not resourceful and was able to include them as well. Here’s a link to the lyrics & credit to the music, Hall of Fame.

This dedication goes out to those featured in 2018 on:

Thank you to those of you living with blindness/sight loss for continuing to live your best lives. Many thanks to the professionals in the field of blindness who help us reclaim and sustain our independence. Thank you to the parents of blind & visually impaired kiddos who are fearlessly giving them the tools they need to thrive. Because of the work you do, together we are breaking down barriers. THANKS TO ALL OF YOU!

Description: The video template looks like a chalkboard and it contains the names and photos of the people mentioned below.

2018 Hall of Fame Dedication

Email Respondents | 2018 Hall of Famers

Blind Beauty | 2018 Hall of Famers

Women On The Move | 2018 Hall of Famers

Cane EnAbled | 2018 Hall of Famers

2018 Hall Of Fame Dedication

The image is a cover photo collage of the first two email respondents and Hawkeye The White Cane:

  • Christina Holtzclaw – adjective is “Authentic”
  • Jennifer Dunlap – her adjective is “Mom”
  • Hawkeye – his adjective is “Independent”
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Exchange Program Sparks Sense of Adventure

Exchange Program Featured image description is in the body of the post.

Exchange Program Sparks Sense of Adventure

My (then) boyfriend’s parents refused to let me into their home, solely because I was visually impaired. At that point, my world fell apart.

~Fern Lulham
Women On The Move 61

Inherited Eye Condition Affects Sight

#1 Fern at lectern image description is in the body of the post.
#1 Fern at lectern

I was born with a condition called aniridia. This means the colored part of my eye (the Iris) is absent. The severity of aniridia varies from person to person. In some people, the condition affects only one eye and they are able to drive. For others, it can lead to total sight loss.

Because of aniridia I’ve been severely visually impaired all my life. Even so, when growing up I had enough vision to do virtually everything my friends could do. Although I had little support in my lessons, I went to mainstream schools and could join in all the activities. I was happy in school and made lots of friends who remain my friends to this day.

Communication has always been my passion. As a child, I pretended objects like egg whisks and large spoons were radio microphones to “interview” family members! Before going to sleep, I preferred listening to a local phone-in radio program to a bedtime story. Once I fell asleep I dreamed of hosting my own show. So it was no surprise when I went to university, I studied Radio Broadcast Communication.

Chasing The Communications Dream

I spent my early university days in Cardiff, South Wales. Since Cardiff is several hours drive from home, I lived away from home for the first time.

I never thought my visual impairment would be a barrier to independent living and I loved my new way of life at university. However, when the chance for a year’s exchange to Western Carolina University in the USA came along, my sense of adventure went into overdrive!

While my parents were always supportive, they were nervous about me living on the other side of the world. They could have tried to stop me, but I’m so glad they didn’t. I literally had the time of my life in Carolina.

I made friends from all over the world, hosted the breakfast show on the local FM radio station, and ultimately became the station manager. Such was my love of life in the Great Smoky Mountains. What began as a one year exchange ended up as three years and I graduated from WCU. After graduation, I got a job as a drive-time host at a commercial radio station in Michigan. I felt unstoppable!

Returning Home Brings Bad News

When my visa expired I returned to the UK. After I returned home, routine hospital checks identified conditions often associated with aniridia were starting to affect me. I developed glaucoma, cataracts and corneal problems which needed treatment to avoid further sight loss.

The reality of finding a job in the UK as a visually impaired person, combined with newly diagnosed issues was challenging. The latest news concerning my sight, affected my confidence, my mood, and my sense of self-worth.

Although I’d always presented myself as a positive, happy person, the truth was more negative thoughts were never far from the surface. These feelings grew, when, for the first time in my life, I experienced rejection. My (then) boyfriend’s parents refused to let me into their home, solely because I was visually impaired. At that point, my world fell apart.

Hope Leads The Way

#2 Fern & Mr. Samer Hamada
#2 Fern & Mr. Samer Hamada

Despite the fact my sight worsened as I’ve got older, one of my guiding principles is always to have hope. Thanks to this principle I’ve carried on; found a job, stayed involved with radio, and pursued a public speaking career.

I’m now President of Eastbourne Speakers Club, part of Toastmasters International and I use my skills as a speaker to inspire others. Encouraging them to never to give up hope and to value the person they already are. I am passionate about becoming more influential in the area of mental health and have a youtube channel devoted to the subject.

I am so lucky to be surrounded by positive, supportive people. One of these is my Consultant, Mr. Samer Hamada. In November, I am due to have stem cell surgery carried out by him. If this is successful, it might slightly improve my vision, or it might just prevent further sight loss. Either way, it contributes to the feeling of hope for my future.

Like so many others, I have dark days – days when it would be so easy to just give up. But I won’t give up. I have the love and support of others and hope in my heart. Hope that my best days are ahead of me!

Connecting With Fern On Social Media:

Exchange Program Featured Image Description:

Fern is a pretty brunette who has bangs and hair length just beyond her shoulders. She is wearing a white tank top with a chunky silver statement necklace. Fern’s quote overlayed on the image reads: “My (then) boyfriend’s parents refused to let me into their home, solely because I was visually impaired. At that point, my world fell apart.” 

Additional Images:

  1. In this photo, Fern is standing at a lectern at a speaking event. She is wearing a dark-colored cold shoulder dress with a silver necklace and ankle boots.
  2. Fern is posing in this photo wearing a sparkling lacy red dress with her consultant, Mr. Samer Hamada. 
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Finding Confidence Through Vision Loss

Finding Confidence Through Vision Loss featured image description is in the body of the post.

Finding Confidence Through Vision Loss

Today’s Woman On The Move, Jennifer Dunlap shares her heartbreaks and triumphs while living with RP. FYI – Jennifer was also a recently featured Blind Beauty.

“I am more than my vision loss. I am more than my disease. At the same time, my eyes have helped define my character as I grow into the woman that I want to be. It’s a fine line that has had difficult moments, but that line is one I will continually walk, some days with my cane, and some days without.” 

~Jennifer Dunlap

Knowing From the Start

Finding Confidence Jennifer Dunlap photo description is in the body of the post.
Jennifer Dunlap

I wasn’t surprised by my diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). What surprised me was how the disease took hold of my youth and unraveled it unexpectedly.

It’s fairly common for women in my family to have RP. My mother, her mother, one of my aunts as well as her daughter―all have this eye disease. There are a few members of our extended family with RP as well. We all have varying degrees and different sight loss stories. With the exception of me and my mother, the other female family members were able to drive among other things. They were able to drive and only had vision loss in dim lighting or issues with peripheral vision.

With RP, gradual vision loss and eventual blindness are expected. Not knowing when or having the exact timeline didn’t scare me as a kid. The majority of my family with this disease didn’t start losing a lot of vision until their late 30’s.

My only setbacks as a child were not being able to play cops and robbers in the dark and decreased peripheral sight. When high school hit, everything changed and my vision began decreasing rapidly. It took a toll on my self-esteem because I felt like I couldn’t actually see what I looked like. I struggled with body issues and developed bulimia, yet I was able to hide my self-loathing very well.

Facing the Obstacles

Once my vision became an unavoidable obstacle, I got a mobility specialist. Then I looked at my options with a counselor who could help me find my footing in the blind world. In a matter of two weeks, I found out I wouldn’t be able to drive and was declared legally blind. I wasn’t heartbroken, I was angry and still struggling with my appearance.

My senior year of high school was when I was fitted with my white cane and low vision aids. I pretended to be strong on the outside to get through my senior year. But in reality, I was up and down with depression and an eating disorder. I hid things so well from my family and was already accepted to a great college one town over. They didn’t notice the internal struggles, and I wanted to keep it that way.

Seeing Through the Storm

Even though I did really well in college, I still had issues I was hiding from everyone. My vision kept getting worse, but I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in writing. I also had two minors- Professional Technical Writing and Women’s and Gender Studies.

Getting my degree helped me find a new understanding of my eyes and what I could accomplish, but I couldn’t shake the self-loathing. My purging and depression became so bad, that I was hospitalized for a suicide attempt.

Seeing my body crash from the damage I caused, made me realize that my blindness wasn’t at fault for my bulimia. After a lengthy period of rehabilitation and out-patient counseling, I was able to find some hope. I married my best friend from high school and only had a few issues with relapse. Once we decided to start a family, I didn’t let my vision loss hold me back, and I decided to be healthy. It was a decision only I could make.

Blinder, Bolder, and Busy with Babies

Having kids was the self-loathing turning point in my life. I realized that seeing beauty isn’t as powerful as feeling it. Being a mother made me love myself.

I couldn’t see the detail in my babies faces. My vision was like seeing through a straw and there with broken glass at the end of the tunnel. The colors were dim and lighting played a big part in what silhouettes I could see. I didn’t let the vision loss hold back my opinions about how beautiful my children are or how beautiful my life had become.

Motherhood showed me that blindness wasn’t my weakness, it was my superpower. Blindness made my other senses stronger, and it helped me find the self-love that I needed. I was wrong to blame RP on my self-doubt. RP became the backbone for my character and confidence.

Finding Confidence Featured Image Description

In the photo, Jennifer is holding her adorable son and daughter. All three are smiling for the camera. 

Additional Photo:

This photo is a selfie of Jenn. The softly smiling, long-haired brunette beauty is wearing a yellow tee under a plaid shirt.

Connecting With Jenn On Social Media: