“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” what exactly does that mean? Well, for most it means making the best of a bad situation. Sometimes in life it can be difficult to find the positive things in what may be an unfortunate life event. For some, it’s a feeling of hopelessness or fear of the unknown. For others, it means making changes in your life and seeing the situation for the positiveness that it can bring. The fact is, not everything can be changed. It’s those times you have to make a change in the way you are going to live your life with those so-called “lemons” that have been handed to you.
Invariably, the one question I am asked is, “How do you do it?” What people seem to be most interested in is my hearing or lack of hearing. I lost my hearing at age 44 and for a great number of people they can’t imagine what that’s like. I always answered them with, “It is what it is,” and I usually got an understanding head nod. I knew it was not the best answer, but for me it meant that I had accepted that the situation could not be changed. Or could it? That was my lemon. What was I going to do with that lemon? Well, I made lemonade, of course! I knew there was nothing I could do to physically change being deaf. But I had heard of a medical device called a cochlear implant. It is a device that is implanted in your cochlea and with an external sound processor that you wear on your ear, it enables a person to hear again. My mission was to get approved for the implant. Six months after losing my hearing I was implanted with a cochlear implant. It was a life-changing experience, as much as losing my hearing was. Even with a cochlear implant I didn’t hear the same as someone with a good set of ears. Without the sound processor on, I am still deaf. Instead of feeling defeated, I decided to find the positive in losing my hearing and not only that but also receiving a cochlear implant. You might ask, “What can possibly be positive in losing your hearing?” My answer would be, “A lot of things.” I have made new friendships with people that I would have never otherwise met, I’ve gained a new appreciation for those with disabilities, I am humbler, I learned that I can do anything I put my mind to and discovered that I am not alone. With the cochlear implant, I gained an appreciation of sound, struggle, patience, perseverance and consistency. I was without hearing for six months before being implanted. During that time, I didn’t let it get me down, I decided that being deaf was not the end of the world. I carried a notebook and asked people write to me. I learned that most people were very accepting and willing to go the extra step. That lesson taught me to always be vocal about hearing loss and cochlear implants. While cochlear implants are not the answer for everyone, they were my recipe for lemonade.
In 2014, I left on an adventure of a lifetime and competed on the TV Reality Show, Survivor. A day doesn’t go by that I hear from others telling me, “I could never do that and I could never do that as a deaf person.” I tell each person, “Yes you can!” I owe a lot to my cochlear implants. They gave me the confidence to be thrown out on a beach, in Nicaragua with people I had never met and play that crazy game called Survivor. But it wasn’t just that, they gave me confidence to continue to live to my life like I did before losing my hearing. It isn’t perfect and I still struggle to hear at times, but I’ve accepted it for what it is and chose to embrace it for everything that I’ve gained.
So the next time life tosses you a basket full of lemons, pick them up and make your own lemonade.