Listen to These Inspiring Stories of Overcoming Disease and Disability

A few days ago, you did the New Year’s Resolution thing. You took a look at 2012, identified the things you could do better. You opened up your secret heart a bit and made promises to do the things that you’ve always wanted to.

But now it’s the fourth of January, and you’re already looking at the return of the usual routine. Maybe you’re about to go off leave. Maybe you’re already back at work. And as those all too familiar pressures resume their presence in your life, you start to worry. You realise you’ve got no real idea how to get to where you want to be from where you are.

What’s worse, you don’t know what’s just around the corner.

It’s a huge, complex world we live in. Even when we think we have things under control, the vast and microscopic forces of life can conspire to change everything in an instant.

How can we hope to truly make our personal passions real when even our own bodies and brains can conspire against us?

I’m here with good news. Not only can we do it, but people have done it.

I’ve spoken with them.

I’ve interviewed over twenty people for the Paid to Play Podcast so far. I’ve spoken with writers, shop owners, actors, musicians, tinkerers, hobbyists, cooks.

Some, like Terry Serio, were fortunate enough to not only discover their passion early on but also have the confidence to immediately seize it and turn it into their life’s vocation without ever having to venture into the rat race.

But some have not only been in the same starting point as you or I, but have also been victim of horrid circumstance.

Yet still, they’ve prospered.

Overcoming afflictions and the Nine-to-Five

Kelly Gurnett Profile Pic
Kelly Gurnett overcame bipolar disorder to start achieving her dream of a writer’s life.

Let me start with someone in the same situation as many of us.

Kelly Gurnett was my guest for episode fifteen of the podcast. After her bipolar disorder robbed her of her belief in herself as a writer in college, Kelly went to work at a legal firm, and by the time she got her disorder under control and rediscovered her passion, she was doing the nine-to-five grind as a paralegal. Kelly made damn sure she was good at her job, but it still wasn’t her true calling.

So Kelly decided to change her career and her life one small step at a time. She started a blog about ridding herself of the things that didn’t serve her desire to live a full, realised life: Cordelia Calls It Quits. Though she initially wrote about her plans to change her career behind the pseudonym, Kelly was able to make significant changes to her working life by the time she was outed.

Kelly negotiated her position down to a part-time one, and has since filled the hours she freed up with work not only a freelance blogger but also a paid editor with the Brazen Careerist. Going full time as a writer is now only a matter of time and hustle!

Jeremy Judd battles a liver condition every day.

Another nine-to-fiver is Jeremy Judd, my colleague and guest for episode four. He not only juggles his day job and care of his young son, he also battles a liver condition that often robs him of energy and causes regular visits to the hospital.

Yet he still ensures he has time for his passions of DJ-ing and street art; just recently he painted the interior walls of one of Cairns’ newest cafes!

Since being laid off from her job, Mur Lafferty, my guest for episode twelve, has been developing her career as an author, managing her workload as a freelance podcaster, loving her family as a wife and mother and learning how to kick arse as a martial artist.

But she also has to deal with a blood condition, hereditary hemochromatosis, that if left unchecked can (if Wikipedia is right) knock your major organs around something fierce, leading to other conditions like diabetes, adrenal insufficiency and even heart failure.

Then there are those folks who’ve not only overcome afflictions, but come at their passions from an unusual angle.

Overcoming afflictions from different places

Gavin Dunne has had to adjust his career in music to account for tinnitus.
Gavin Dunne has re-organised his music career after suffering tinnitus.

Just recently, my guest for my most downloaded interview, Gavin Dunne of Miracle of Sound, set up a career for himself by writing, recording and performing songs based on video games and geek culture movies like The Dark Knight Rises and Prometheus. He’d gone from strength to strength in two years of music sales when, a couple of months ago, he developed tinnitus.

Being a professional musician who has trained his aural sense to discern high-pitched sounds, having a continual ringing noise in the ears (which he described in a video blog as “Satan’s dog whistle”) made Gavin put everything on hold until he got more infomation on his condition and what it meant for him music.

While doctors have told Gavin that the condition is almost certainly permanent, Gavin has the condition under control and is once again recording and uploading new music after a short hiatus. At the moment, though, his capability to perform live is still up in the air – sadly, the condition set upon him only a couple of months after his first Miracle of Sound concert at last year’s Escapist Expo.

Amy Milligan and Mal Semmens.
Mal Semmens and Amy Milligan set their business up around Mal’s paraplegia.

Mal Semmens, co-owner and operator of KerSplatt Comics and Collectables and my guest for one of my earliest episodes, was a labourer until a motorcycle accident damaged his spine. Since then, paraplegia has confined him to a wheelchair.

While he could have kept going on a disability pension, Mal and his girlfriend Amy Milligan decided to turn their passion for comic books into a way of meeting the needs of Cairns’ comic book fans – by opening a comic store. They’ve had to face all the usual hurdles of opening and running a shop plus taking Mal’s paraplegia into account by ensuring the shop’s premises are wheelchair friendly.

Saffron Bryant beat cancer whilst studying and writing a novel.

Saffron Bryant, my guest for episode sixteen, had dreams of writing for years, but wasn’t even out of university when she got the wake up call that all of us hope never to get: Cancer. And not just anywhere: behind her left eye.

Saffron decided that nether the cancer nor the treatment and surgery to rid her of it were going to rob her of her life. Not only did she continue her biomedical studies, but she also wrote her first novel, The Fallen Star, all while fighting the tumour off.

Saffron is now not only working on the sequel to The Fallen Star and studying for her masters in bio-medicine, she’s also exploring her passion for paint; having created the cover of The Fallen Star herself, she now explores oil on canvas, and has works up for sale.

And that’s just the folks whose interviews I’ve already uploaded.

New stories of overcoming affliction

My guest for tomorrow’s episode, Matt Bond, has suffered through significant leg injuries that not only render him unfit for employment, but also cause him pain whenever he walks and remove a lot of his physical stability. Like Mal, Matt had the option to continue on disability.

Instead, Matt’s passion for taking photographs not only keeps him on his feet and conquering his pain, it’s also become a full-time profession. Matt also finds time to make his studio of sound recording gear available to local charities and community organisations.

And in the following episode, author Talitha Kalago tells how she battles a debilitating condition known as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome – a condition that threatens her very life – whilst building her career as a romance and speculative fiction novelist.

Talitha even wrote the horror novel that she would love to see published, The Hungry People, whilst in a bath of ice, in the midst of the Black Saturday bushfires, as the syndrome ate at her skin.

Inspiration in overcoming affliction

Each of these people has a passion, and each of them has been dealt an unasked for and unfair blow in their lives. We’d understand if their circumstances left them unwilling to chance their hearts, health, even lives any further.

Yet each of them has discovered ways by which they can live their passions in spite of the damage those blows has caused. Not one of them decided that their affliction meant the end of their dreams.

So when you find yourself unsure of your passion, listen to their stories. Realise the opportunities that you either have or can make for yourself and start taking the steps, small or large, toward making your dreams of doing the work you love a reality.

My guests have found success in their passions. So can we!

Are you stressing?

What uncertainties and fears stand between you and doing something about your dreams?

What afflictions and / or disabilities do you manage in your life?

Are you curious?

How have you overcome an obstacle in your life that directly affected your body and / or mind?


Wikipedia on hereditary hemochromatosis

Gavin Dunne talks about his tinnitus on YouTube

Saffron Bryant’s art sales page on Fine Art America

Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

Featured image by Cristiano Galbiati

2 thoughts on “Listen to These Inspiring Stories of Overcoming Disease and Disability

    • Rob F.

      You’re welcome, Cordelia! You’ve all done (and continue to do) inspiring stuff!

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