Participant Success Story:
Dianne Bradley (Kansas City, Kansas)
When Dianne Bradley attended her first session of “Living Well with a Disability,” at the Coalition for Independence, she felt she didn’t belong.
“I didn’t think I was disabled enough to attend the class because I’m not in a wheelchair. But then I asked myself, how is disabled defined?” she recalls.
Over the course of several months, the Kansas City, Kan., resident gained perspective on what it means to have a disability and a new understanding of her own battle with Parkinson’s Disease.
“The class opened me up to other possibilities,” Dianne says. “Before this, I was secluded in my house and feeling sorry for myself because I have a debilitating illness that won’t get better. I felt as though there was no hope.” Now, she says, “I’ve become more positive and empowered than I have been since I was diagnosed in 2004.”
“I dove right into this,” Dianne says about setting goals to overcome her obstacles. “One of my medications causes weight gain and makes me move slowly, so losing weight was my first goal.” She began exercising and swimming at a nearby YMCA, and within a few months lost 10 pounds.
Dianne set other challenging goals that she continues working on since completing the workshop. She sold her house and moved to one without stairs, and she’s working with an employment network to find a part-time job. She went on disability after she was diagnosed, but she’s a young 48-year-old who wants to stay involved.
Another challenge is educating her own family to accept and understand what her disability means to her. And she’s taking a leadership role by starting a Parkinson’s Disease support group for people between the ages of 40 and 55. She decided to start the group, she says, because at the few support groups that she’s visited, “I was the youngest by at least 25 years.”
Dianne praises the Living Well curriculum and those who delivered it at CFI: “I highly recommend this workshop to anyone. The instructors, the workbook and my peers made the difference. The program taught me the importance of confidence, empowerment and networking. I read in a book that disappointments are inevitable; discouragement is a choice.”
Perhaps most important, she gained the power to stay connected. After the Living Well workshop ended, Dianne and several others in the group decided to continue meeting monthly. In her words, this is a way “to stay in touch and continue to uplift one another and spend that ‘our time’ together away from home, family and other stresses we face each day. The peer interaction makes a huge difference.”