When Tanya-Lee Holmes was 39 years old, her life changed forever. A florist at the time, she went to bed with a migraine and woke up a couple of hours later paralysed down one side of her body. “I’d ruptured two vertebrae in my spine, which resulted in nerve damage and surgery,” she says. Overnight, she went from being extremely active to needing a walking stick or wheelchair.
“I dealt with chronic nerve pain, incontinence... it completely changed the plan I had for my future.”
For those first few months following her injury, Tanya-Lee describes the world as feeling black. “Two of my three adult children have cerebral palsy and require wheelchair assistance. My other son is in the army. Raising kids with disabilities and then acquiring my own really made me look at things in a different light.”
One of those shifts came with understanding how some people now perceived what she had to offer. “I applied for 70 jobs after my injury... nobody would give me a role,” she says. “I was viewed as a risk. It was deflating.” She felt angry, sad and disappointed. “That people would see the physically affected side of me and not what I was capable of made me question if we had evolved in the disability space at all.”