By: CATHERINE HARRISON
“Take a good look at the faces of your three sons because you will not be able to see them as grown men”. This was the cruelest way I can think of to tell someone they are going blind…yet that is exactly what happened to me.
I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a blinding, genetic retinal disease in 1995 and told to prepare for a life of darkness. In a short amount of time I lost my career as an Operating Room Nurse, my driver’s license, my independence, my ability to read and for the most part myself worth.
I struggled for several years to adjust to the progressive vision loss because this was not supposed to happen to ME. I was the wife of a plastic surgeon, mother of three darling boys, a former model turned nurse, I had served as a missionary in Africa and this was not part of my plans. Like so many others with vision loss I fell down a lot, tripped on toys, hated going out to dark social events, almost got run over by cars, used the wrong spices in cooking and had days I wallowed in self-pity.
About 15 years ago, with the support of my faith and family, as my sight grew smaller I not only accepted my fate but I had a change of heart. I realized my sons were watching me and learning how to handle the curve balls of life and I wanted to be a good example.
It occurred to me one day that just because I couldn’t see it didn’t mean I had to give up my goals and dreams or stop being me. I decided that if I was going to go blind I might as well do it dressed to kill, with a cute hairdo, in high heels and being good at it. I will give people a reason to stare other than my cane.
I learned to be very independent with my white cane, became a Braille reader, use adaptive technology and even attended a school for blind adults to fully adapt to my blindness. I quickly learned the power of the white cane…if you swing it wide enough, people will get out of your way!
I have learned what it is to be humbled by tragedy and strengthened by resolve. I found my strength from pushing myself up off the floor then learning to rise with grace and a smile after falling.
I will admit it has taken a lot of hard work to put my white cane out in front, step into my strength, being confident in who I am, knowing my limits and still be a vulnerable woman.
For me it is not about fighting against the darkness blindness brings, those are facts I can’t change. But I can change how I approach the challenges and how I show up each day. I make a choice to show up strong, being fearless, walking in the strength of my faith, dressed on point and modeling a life that does more than just survives.
I am still in the driver’s seat of my own life, even though I don’t have a license!
I use my modeling career as a way to empower others to choose strength and to not let circumstances decide who they become!