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‘The teacher called home. ‘Vanessa is not paying attention in class.’ I failed every hearing test. ‘What are you saying?!’ I started to think I just wasn’t smart.’: Woman with severe hearing loss receives eye-opening diagnosis after 33 years

“We took my daughter for a routine hearing test. I impatiently asked my husband, ‘What’s taking them so long to start the test?’ His eyes widened. ‘Vanessa, are you kidding me? We’re half way through!’ I couldn’t hear a thing.”

‘Linda, I have news—please sit down.’ The delivery room was hush-hush. ‘She will be a burden to your family.’ Everyone was disgusted I wouldn’t abort her.’: Mom details emotional journey advocating for daughter with Down syndrome

“Our genetics counselor suggested we institutionalize her. The speech therapist said right in front of my 8-year-old daughter, ‘She will likely never have a job. I don’t even think part-time work is in her future.’ Right then is when a fire got lit. We wanted her to have the fullest and most complete life she possibly could.”

‘Is it the right decision?’ They came to take her. I stood, paralyzed, and watched as she disappeared. There was debilitating fear.’: Girl with Down syndrome survives new heart surgery, ‘She’s one of the first to have it’

“I kept taking her picture, scared it could be the last one. I counted every eyelash, perfectly placed on her eyes. She would be the first on the West Coast to have this surgery. I didn’t want to let her go because then the decision would be final.”

‘A middle-aged woman stopped me at the gym. ‘You are so pretty. You could be a model if only you lost weight!’ I’d just lost 140 pounds.’: Woman urges ‘being fat will never take away my self-worth’

“She stopped me as I was leaving the gym. The rage I felt in my teen years surged back right under the surface, and for the rest of the week, I stewed on this backhanded compliment. ‘If I lost weight…’ I had just lost 140 pounds and never felt better.”

‘My parents detonated a bomb inside our tiny, thatched roof hut. I was supposed to die that night.’: Adopted bomb survivor now hopeful paralympic swimmer, ‘I’m so thankful for the opportunities this life has given me’

“A woman with 6 children had a strong feeling a child was missing from their family and they were supposed to adopt. A week later, they were told a horrific story of a baby in Vietnam who had survived a bomb blast. It was as if we had both been waiting for each other thousands of miles apart.”

‘It can’t be bad, you’re young. You look fine.’ I questioned whether my symptoms were in my head.’: Single mom diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, ‘I don’t know what tomorrow has in store, but I’m ready to fight’

“I went from busy full days of work to barely handling the commute. I struggled to keep up with other moms my age. Misconceptions such as, ‘Young people can’t get it,’ and ‘You look totally healthy,’ infuriated me. It’s not just a disease for the elderly. I wasn’t fighting only for myself, but also my son.”

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