The Miracle Worker

When I was a child, I loved watching The Patty Duke Show. So naturally I was thrilled when I found out she played the part of Helen Keller in the 1962 American Biographical Film, The Miracle Worker. A stirring dramatization of the story of Helen Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan. I loved that film and saw it several times over the years…

I could never have imagined back then, how that film, The Miracle Worker, would play out in a very similar fashion later in my own life. How could I have known that one day I would become the mother of a child, our daughter, Shantel, who would lose both her eyes to cancer, leaving her totally blind for life? Thankfully Shantel is not deaf, but she did lose a significant amount of her hearing, in both ears, due to the chemo she received for the treatment of the cancer.

I remember like it was yesterday, the soul piercing fear I felt, when my husband, Bill, and I were told the only way to save our then two-year old daughter, Shantel’s, life was to remove both her eyes. What do you do with that? How do you cope? How do you find the strength to help your child find her way through life in total darkness?

Lucky for us, we were immediately connected with The Foundation For Blind Children (FBC) in North Phoenix. Shantel was enrolled into their toddler program at the age of 2 1/2. The FBC not only taught Shantel the life skills she would need to keep herself safe, they also taught Bill and I when to push her and how to know when we needed to redirect her efforts. They told us if we were going to make Shantel into a porcelain doll, she would eventually break, and would never learn how to properly function in her world. They told us over and over again to insist she learn and practice the skills they would teach her. Things as simple as eating soup from a spoon without tipping the spoon and spilling the soup… That sounds so simple but it isn’t when your 2 1/2, you can’t see, your hungry and frustrated, and the people you love and trust are insisting you “do it again, and again, and again…. I felt so sorry for her and it would have been so very easy to just scoop her up into my lap and feed her… but I knew if I did that I was sentencing her to a life of helplessness…

Another life skill Shantel had to learn was how to use a long cane so she can move about safely and freely in her environment. Before learning the long cane skills, Shantel had to learn to move about inside our home by keeping her hands out in front of her face so if she ran into something her hands would let her know. I cannot tell you how many times I had to watch her run into counters, and walls, because she would forget to put her hands out. I could have stopped her prior to her banging her head, but the FBC told us she will not learn how to do things right unless she understands what happens if she doesn’t…

Shantel was the youngest child ever, at the time, in the FBC program to learn to use a long cane. We were told that most children under 4 yrs old do not have the muscle control and strength to control the cane in such a way that will keep them safe… Shantel has always been tall for her age and she has always been very strong. This is a picture of her walking with two of her friends in her class at the FBC. The little girl in the front and the one in the middle had very low vision at the time and both lost all their vision a few years later. Shantel, in the back of the line, of course was totally blind but commanded control of her long cane. We were and still are so very proud of her.

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Shantel is grown now, 21 yrs old, and living independently alone in her very first apartment. She takes care of her apartment, fixes her own meals, and does her own laundry… Had we not forced her to learn and practice all those skills over the years, living on her own today would not have been possible…

Yesterday, my husband, Bill and I went to a live play of The Miracle Worker.

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The performance was held at the Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert Az.

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The Hale Centre Theatre is a lovely, small, intimate, theatre that is practically in our own backyard.

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We had front row seats and could have reached out and touched the actors and stage props if we wanted… our seats were just behind the brown table with the white bowl sitting on it. How cool is that?

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But, like I said… any seat in the theatre was good

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Seeing the live performance of The Miracle Worker, played out in real-time, right before our eyes, in such an intimate and close setting, was to say the least, a very emotional experience for both Bill and I. We both laughed and we both cried… and when it was over, we both agreed the story of Helen Keller, and her teacher, Anne Sullivan, is a story of victory over unbelievable odds – accomplished through conviction, perseverance, and love… Much like our own story…

Stay Tuned!

 

 

 

 

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ellen Kaufman
    Jun 29, 2014 @ 19:33:31

    Like I have said many times to your situation……unbelievable, unimaginable and extremely brave, caring and unselfish family. An act of love and kindness for beautiful baby who grew up to be a strong and determined young lady…..in all her difficult situations it is because of you and Bill and God, that she will succeed. Love you 💜

    Reply

  2. Bill
    Jun 29, 2014 @ 22:06:34

    Yes it was emotional but at the same time, I thought back at all the hard work Shantel did to achieve were she is today. With me working most of the time, you were her biggest cheer leader and guided her along the way.

    Love you Girly

    Reply

    • beyondcinderella
      Jun 30, 2014 @ 12:28:49

      Yes, Bill, Shantel did do the hard work to accomplish not only her personal goals but the goals others set for her… And, even though you were working outside of the house everyday, I remember seeing you at the dining room table for hours upon hours helping her with math because math has never been my strong point. Love you. XoXo

      Reply

  3. katsbynp
    Jun 29, 2014 @ 22:54:12

    Shantel is an amazing young woman and I look forward to meeting her. She was so fortunate to have you and Bill to love and guide her. Thank you for sharing this great post.
    Glad you enjoyed the play and they certainly were great seats. XOXO

    Reply

  4. gotham girl
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 15:00:07

    An extremely beautiful post my dear. Tears here…you continue to amaze me…love and hugs!

    Reply

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