BLIND SCHOOL. Red door….Why I had been placed at such a school became even more of a puzzle as the strict rules of the prison-style institution closed in on me like the slamming of a cell door. Rules that made no sense. They would try to change me, to make me someone I clearly wasn’t. But as each rule was laid down, the spark inside me grew even brighter.
Janet Shaw was not born blind. Adopted at brith, it was not until she was thirteen months old that she was diagnosed with a inherited condition – a malignant cancer called retinoblastoma. She had one eye removed and the other was damaged by the radiotherapy which saved her life against the odds. After that she endured a lifetime of operations and limited vision, but never considered herself as either blind nor less able. It was not until she was thirty-three years old that she lost all vision and made the difficult decision to have her remaining eye removed.
Beyond the Red Door is Janet Shaw’s inspiring story. Despite the difficulties of living with limited vision and with ongoing pain in her ‘good’ eye, she refused to be limited in what she could achieve. She travelled, had a career and, in her thirties, became a champion disabled cyclist.
The book also reveals her struggle for identity and to form a relationship with her birth parents. With a strong and stable family life with her adoptive family, it was not until she was grown that Shaw made the decision to try to find her birth parents. When she did finally meet her birth mother, she had to face a painful rejection. Meeting her birth father, however, was more rewarding, although it took several years for their relationship to develop. Shaw’s birth father is a high-profile media personality (whose name is revealed in the book) who did not know of her existence until she made contact. The pair had to work through difficult circumstances to forge a relationship.
Janet Shaw’s story is intensely personal and honest. It has incredible lows but also great highs. It is the story of an extraordinary person striving to be the best she can be. No one who reads this book will doubt that she has succeeded.
Janet Shaw will be competing in the Athens 2004 Paralympics. Her fighting spirit is sure to stand her in good stead for this challenge.
The Red Door, by Janet Shaw
Allen & Unwin, 2004