ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — How many times can you fall before you can’t get up again?
For Shawana McKinstry-Keeling that answer is simple. She never gives up, no matter how hard the fall.
Today Shawana is home-schooling her son and owns her own business. It’s not the life she thought she would have 13 years ago when her life changed forever.
“It was depressing,” recalls Shawana. “It was so depressing in that moment and it was very hard for me to try to grasp all the stuff that was happening at one time.”
It all started when she was on the phone at work.
“After the call, I just paused it for a bit and sat there, and the next thing I know my eyesight went out,” said Shawana. “And it freaked me out.”
Shawana was born with coloboma. She’s legally blind in one eye. The other eye was fine until now, and her doctor’s response was not hopeful.
She recalls the doctor saying, “No one in Roanoke Valley will be able to help you. You’re going to have to get a specialist for this.”
Around the same time, she thought something might be wrong with her son, Bryce.
“He has some developmental delays, he couldn’t speak he couldn’t walk,” recalls Shawana.
She searched for answers for both of them. Then finally, Shawana found out the coloboma in her right eye – was now in her left eye and fluid had collected over the years.
Surgery meant the risk of losing her eyesight, but she went through it anyway.
“It was very hard for me so I had to adapt and learn how to maneuver this new life I had,” said Shawana. “I had magnifier glasses, everything you can imagine I had it, trying to see and help my son because if I told him not to give up, I couldn’t give up either. I can’t do it. I can’t tell him to do something if I gave up.”
It’s a theme Shawana and her husband, John, has held onto throughout their entire journey.
“When things get rough there’s only one way up. We tell our kids, never give up. Always keep fighting, keep pushing,” explained John.
It took seven years to get a diagnosis for Bryce.
“The doctor told me, he said he was so nonchalant he was like ‘just love him the way he is and sometimes you may not even get an answer so we don’t know what to do’ and I asked him one day, I said if this was your child would you give up? He told me no. I said well I’m not either, so don’t tell me that. And after that, I promised myself that I was gonna fight for my son and I fought. Barely can see, but I fought for him, and we fought for him.”
Bryce has mitochondrial disorder which is a rare debilitating condition that affects parts of the body like muscles or the brain.
“But then a whole nother issue started,” said Shawana. “It was like issue after issue kept happening.”
Shawana had to fight the school system to understand his condition. She was also let go from her job. And then her eye issues caused her to lose her license.
But she found a solution to every problem.
Shawana started homeschooling Bryce. She started a business “Sweet Magnolia Wax and Company.” And she found a doctor to help get her specialty glasses to allow her to drive again.
“Two whole years and on my birthday, I got my license back,” said Shawana with a big smile. “I didn’t give up. So when you start stuff, you can’t give up. If you give up, then you never know what you can do. Because I knew my abilities and I knew I could do it and so…I did it and it felt so so good.”
“She’s a remarkable woman,” said Ronda Durham of Shawana. She nominated Shawana for WFXR’s Remarkable Women.
“Just her strength. Her strength. Just her strength,” Ronda tearfully said.
As a home care provider for Bryce, she spent a lot of time Shawana.
“Me being there and seeing it but still not actually being her, I don’t know if I could do that. I really don’t,” said Ronda. “That’s why I said she’s a remarkable woman.”
Shawana has since published her story in a book with other women. Her business is thriving and she has plans to give back to the special needs community.
She wants others to know no matter how scared you are you can get back up again.
“No matter what you can get through it. You just have to have faith. You have to know that you can and then just do it,” said Shawana. “Because you never know until you do it because if I gave up all this time if I did give up, it would just be nothing, and I wouldn’t have all these opportunities coming at me.”
It’s true. Because she’s now living a remarkable life she never knew, existed.