Prepare Yourself for Transition

How Did Cane Confessions Start? 


Though I grew up in a small town in northwest Pennsylvania, for most of my adult life I taught English as a Second Language in Latin America, Southeast Asia and the Middle East—in a wide variety of situations from private schools to the US Department of Defense language programs. I’d found my niche; teaching English abroad allowed me to learn new languages, customs and cultures.

In 1989, home on a short furlough between teaching positions, I stopped in to see my local eye doctor for a quick eye exam. In a candid moment, I confessed to having difficulty seeing in the dark.  My offhand comment led to further eye exams and ultimately, a diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP for short), an incurable hereditary eye disease that would rob me of my sight. I was twenty-eight years old. But I didn’t become blind overnight as I feared. Instead, it was gradual and I viewed it more as an inconvenient blip in my life when I resumed my overseas teaching career, adapting to my ongoing vision loss the best I could.

In 2006 after we learned my father had Stage 4 Lung cancer, I moved back home. Unfortunately, the cancer spread to his bones and he died within a few months of his diagnosis. Over the next few years, my vision deteriorated rapidly and my confidence fell right along with the rest of me. With two new teaching jobs to contend with, I sought out help. I learned my RP was part of an even rarer hereditary disease called Usher Syndrome. Not only was I losing my vision, I was also losing my hearing. Learning to cope with and continue to teach in spite of these challenges is the subject of my first memoir in the mobility series, Mobility Matters.

Three years later, my hearing and vision losses started to interfere with my classroom management and I retired from teaching altogether. That’s when I turned to writing. Fortunately, I had always loved writing because it allowed me to share my travel experiences. Now it would serve as an educational tool as well.

This is when God began placing people in my life to help me reach my new writing—and really, career—goals. It all happened in tiny measurable increments. I remember the first step. A woman from church stepped forward to say, “You need to get your stories out there. Let me help you build a website.”

I started out with articles and blog posts. God was building discipline in me and moving me toward bigger goals. I faithfully continued writing and trusting God, who then used the same individual who built my website to match my emerging writing talents with a gentleman who had lost his wife. He wanted help in writing their love story and asked me to be his ghostwriter. Although I was frightened of failing, I took it on. What I learned in writing their story was how to shape a book. Finally, God was ready for me to write my first book, Mobility Matters. He even paired me up with a Christian editor.

Cane Confessions: The Lighter Side to Mobility begins after my first book has come out and I am trying to market it. I’ve started using my cane on an everyday basis and as I continue to post my blogs, I see a thread of humor emerge and God plants the seed for the second book in the Mobility series.

He always has a personalized plan for each of us, one that often changes at specific intervals in our life.

Have you ever changed your career significantly? What steps do you remember taking? How did you overcome the fears in moving forward?

Prepare Yourself for Transition
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10 thoughts on “Prepare Yourself for Transition

  • September 18, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    Hi Amy,

    Great prelude into Cane Confessions. I enjoyed reading it very much. Your transition was like stepping from the darkness into the light. When I was younger, before my RP diagnosis, I worked with a lot machinery. I depended on my hands and on my back. But when my visual field dwindled down to one degree back in 1994. I had to depend more on my mind and less so on my back and hands. That was a difficult transition for me. But soon afterward, the Lord called me to be a writer as well. He took the wrench from my hand and replaced with a pen.

    I look forward to reading Cane Confessions!!!

    Matt Harris

  • September 18, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    I’ve had Multiple Sclerosis for 45 years. Like Amy’s blindness, the inconveniences of ms came gradually, increasing after a car accident in 2001. In 2004, I had viral conjunctivitis which robbed me of my reading sight for 16 months. I can read the words I’m typing but my eyes are weak and tire easily. For the last 18 years of my work life, I had been a real estate appraiser and loved it. But when I looked at my computer and couldn’t see the words and then looked down at the real estate listing on my lap and couldn’t read it, that was the end of that career. For two years, I fought for SSDI and we moved three times in three years to get to Florida for my health. I was close enough to the age of retirement and had worked for 30 years. I didn’t have the time or energy for fears. Full steam ahead (when I’m not in bed with profound fatigue). Now, eleven years in Florida, I am feeling better and able to do more – mostly at church. Great place if you’re not 100%. They’re happy for your help and pray for you when you can’t get there. I did write a book about my life with ms. Life is my career. The details change. The Spirit remains the same!

  • September 18, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    Hi Kate,
    I really like that title: Muddling Through MS. Can so identify! Thank you for your comment and sharing. I’d forgotten you were a real estate agent. I am struck by the similarities in mobility issues and am so glad we are friends, and more than that, both rely on Christ for our strength. I’m so grateful you remind me of His presence. xx

  • September 18, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    Thanks for sharing your personal transition, Matt!
    It is so interesting how God gives us certain skills and abilities for a time and then replaces them with another one of our God-given talents and blows His breath on all that surrounds it (funding, your college classes, team of disability experts to help you get your books in audio and your teachers, who find ways to make their classroom activities accebile to you in order for you to succeed in what is ultimitely God’s plan for you. Cool.

  • September 18, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    Wow. I love seeing it when God works in people’s lives and He definetely worked in yours!

  • September 18, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    Thank you, Jennifer! I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. Please come back and visit my blog again. I write about vision and hearing loss, the real true nitty-gritty of life, some humor and everyday lessons God teaches me through my losses. 🙂
    PS You read the lead-in to my new book, Cane Confessions: The Lighter Side to Mobility to be released in early November.

  • September 19, 2016 at 4:12 am

    I really enjoyed your post, today. I am soo glad you friended me on facebook, so we could connect. I have multiple chronic illnesses. So, reading your first book’s title “Mobility Matters” is somewhat home hitting. Sometimes, it gets hard to “function”. No career. Just, trying to navigate chronic illness and allow it to draw me nearer to Jesus Christ and teach me to love people as they are.

  • September 19, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    Hi Stacey,
    I’m so glad we connected too! You will love Mobility Matters because it really shows how God met my needs and turned my thought process around. It’s optimistic, full of adventure and authentic. Have you ever heard of the Facebook group, Sick and Tired, Funny and Empathetic ? It was started by my friend, Kimberly Rae (another author). I now manage the group. If you haven’t found this group already, join it. There’s a lot of Christian support there for chronic illness. I look forward to getting to know you better, Stacey! It’s awfully difficult to go through things by yourself.

  • October 16, 2016 at 3:57 am

    I loved reading this post and seeing how God has worked in your life! From reading your blogs I am finding that we have quite a bit in common! In addition to being a Christian and having Usher’s like you, I am also a language teacher myself! Most of my teaching experience is with teaching ASL, but I also have some experience teaching English as a Second Language. Fortunately, I am still able to teach ASL and I hope to be able to continue for a while longer.

  • October 16, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    Hi Virginia!
    I love to meet other language teachers! How great that you went from learning ASL to becoming a teacher of it!
    What is the make-up of your class? Children? Adults? Mixture? Deaf? Sighted?
    Amazing that we both taught ESL! Where did you teach? I just love how God brings people together like this!
    So intrigued to check out your blog!
    Take care and please come back for the second part of Matt’s interview!

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