On each “Why Not Wednesday” we hear about someone else’s detour in life. The more inspiring stories we hear about people dealing with unexpected difficulties, the more empowered we are to deal with our own detours in life.
Everyone’s life “detours” eventually. It’s what we do with that detour that makes the trip amazing.
After my coma, I was led on quite a few detours – detours that provided me with superhero strength. So now, I’d like you to meet an incredibly strong Detourist who reached out to me and truly inspired me. That is the superpower of all Detourists – we ALL have a story. We’ve got to share them to KNOW how amazing we all are!
With that said, share your story with our community here, and…Take it away, Holly!
My name is Holly Bonner, and I’m a Detourist.
I am a blind wife, mother, social worker and I am a detourist. Two weeks before my 19th birthday, I discovered a lump in one of my breasts. Doctors were resistant to pursue extensive testing because of my young age. After battling with insurance companies and pleading with my doctor, I was finally given a mammogram. The test revealed I had intraductal carcinoma, a form of breast cancer.
For years I battled the disease with chemotherapy, radiation and various medications. I lost my hair more times that I could count. I would lose weight and then balloon up from the drugs being pumped into my system. My only consistent support was my then boyfriend, now husband, who stood by me during treatment.
Eventually, I kicked cancer’s ass! The process was long and arduous, leaving me with a compromised immune system and many scars, both emotionally and physically. Eventually, I got married and my husband and I wanted to start a family. My doctors explained that the possibility of me being able to carry a child to term was practically non-existent. I had been exposed to too many drugs and radiation during my cancer battle. After several miscarriages during my first ten years of marriage, I reached a point in my life where I had made peace with the fact I would never become a mother.
I shifted my focus towards enhancing my education. I got a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Metropolitan College of NY, followed by a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University. While at Columbia, I began suffering debilitating headaches and changes to my vision. At first, my depth perception began to decrease. I began tripping over curbs and clumsily falling down stairs. Then, I lost all ability to see color. Upon seeing a neuro-ophthalmologist and several other eye specialists, I was told my cancer treatments had affected me neurologically. My brain was losing communication with my optic nerves, causing vision problems to occur.
Steadily, my eye-sight declined. On January 2, 2012, I went to work at a local school and came home with another horrible headache. I decided to take a nap, hoping it would alleviate some of the pain. When I woke up, I was completely blind, unable to see anything. That day, my doctor declared me legally blind. Over the next several weeks, the inflammation in my optic nerves subsided and I regained some minimal residual vision. Today, I’m totally blind in my left eye and have 20/900 vision in my right eye. I can detect shapes, see light and with the help of magnifiers, make out things placed close to my face.
As a result of my disability, I lost my job and several of my friends abandoned me. I fell into a deep depression, down a rabbit hole that I had no idea how to crawl out of. I wanted to die and seriously contemplated committing suicide.
As a social worker, I knew I needed support. I was assigned services from the New York State Commission for the Blind. With the help of a low vision doctor, adaptive technology specialist, independent living skills teacher and orientation/mobility instructor, I began to slowly adjust to life as a newly blind woman. Then, the unexpected happened.
Six months after being declared blind, I found out I was pregnant! My husband and I weren’t trying, but we weren’t not trying either. Against all the odds, after cancer and being declared blind; I was finally going to become a mother. Nine months later, my daughter Nuala was born. Twenty months after that, a second beautiful baby girl, my daughter Aoife was born. Two precious girls in the midst of many detours.
Looking back on the trajectory of my life, I’ve learned so many things. Cancer made my body weak, but it strengthened my will to survive. It taught me the art of perseverance. Experiencing the disease also helped me to find my “calling”, with a meaningful career in social work.
Becoming blind caused me to re-evaluate my faith, ultimately re-investing in it. I learned to trust God’s path for my life. I am both thankful and appreciative for the people who have supported me, especially my “mostly” wonderful husband.
Despite numerous obstacles navigating parenthood with limited vision; I have never lost “sight” of the kind of mother I want to be. My girls will grow into women knowing their mother loves them to the moon and back and then some. I’ll always have their back, no matter what.
My life has had its fair share of difficulties. There were many times I thought the journey would break me. In hindsight, every obstacle prepared me for the path to motherhood. I am living proof you can be blind and still have vision and that’s why I #lovemydetour.
Holly Bonner is a Staten Island based psychotherapist and Director of Education & Outreach for IlluminArt Productions. A wife and mother of two daughters, Holly became legally blind in 2012 after battling breast cancer. She navigates motherhood relying on help from modern technology, a white cane, and her sixth sense provided by eyes in the back of her head! Her website, blindmotherhood.com, chronicles her adventures in parenting and provides useful information for all mommies. Holly lives by the mantra that even without vision, you should never lose sight of life, love and laughter. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
Wow. Thank you Holly. It’s amazing what the human spirit is capable of when it’s tested. You are truly a testament to that!
All Detourists (which would would be YOU) have stories to tell. It’s scary to trust that twisted path and follow it, even if you’re not sure where it leads. Following that trail will lead you to the ultimate gift: The gift of realizing how incredible you really are. Don’t believe me? Check out these wonderful Detourist stories…and then send me yours!
Instagram #LoveMyDetour Challenge
There’re more than one way to share your detour. Sing it, dance it, walk it. Take a picture of your detour and share it with me on Instagram with #LoveMyDetour – anything goes! I’ll be featuring your pictures every week in my #LoveMyDetour Gallery.
Hold up a sign, draw a picture, snap a photo of your path. It could be the very road in front of you…you never really know where it leads, do you?
Detours can lead to beautiful discoveries. Learn how I’m using my own detour to help college students here.