Living Beyond My Circumstances, by Deborah L. Willows with Steph Beth Nickel (Castle Quay Books, 2014)
Deb Willows is a Canadian athlete who has competed internationally in swimming, slalom, wheelchair soccer and boccia. She’s a Paralympic medal-holder and record-setting swimmer, and a woman of courage and faith.
Her memoir gives readers an inside look at life in a wheelchair (as a child and an adult), at representing Canada on the international sports stage, and at how faith, determination and family support enabled Deb to indeed live beyond her circumstances.
This is a short book, engaging and conversational in style, and well worth reading. It’s organized into sections instead of a straight chronology, to better highlight facets of Deb’s life and experiences.
Because Deb is most famous for her sporting achievements, that’s where the book starts. Then it peeks into her childhood and growing-up years, including the challenges of school, prom and travel with a disability. Deb credits her parents and siblings for not making things easy for her. Her supportive parents made sure she had the necessary tools to do things herself—some built by her father—instead of doing everything for her.
“I’m so thankful for family, friends, teachers and others who stood behind me. They didn’t try to curb my enthusiasm—even when they had no idea how I could reach my goals.” (p. 63)
Because of that, she reached many of her goals, becoming a Paralympian, a business-owner, taking a Hawaiian cruise, and living on her own. Independent living for Deb requires personal care staff and a service dog.
Reading this book felt like getting to know this amazing woman, and I appreciated the insights into the different facets of her life experience. My favourite part was learning about service dogs, but what I will take from this book is a truth Deb learned after a disappointing Paralympics event in Seoul, and which applies to us all:
“In the process of realizing I wasn’t going to win any medals or set any records, I made some important discoveries. I was still Debbie Willows. God could still use me to do many things. I still had value. And I was still in His care.” p. 72
Deborah L. Willows and her co-writer, Steph Beth Nickel, have given us an interesting and encouraging true-life story that can change how we see people in wheelchairs and those with other disabilities. To learn more about the authors, visit their websites (links at the beginning of the paragraph). And check out my interview with them.
[Review copy from my personal library.]