by Jessica Vitullo, 12 May 2010
There are challenges that occur in life that make us think we cannot cope; we feel like we cannot overcome them. The extraordinary journey of Renee Rodrigues teaches us that there is no greater obstacle than simply how we choose to live our lives; and, in certain cases, we just have to suck it up.
Renee is a tremendous 21-year-old woman who has done many wonderful things in her life, despite the fact that she was diagnosed with congenital muscular dystrophy. “I have had countless surgeries, three near-death experiences, and many challenges,” says Renee. In Grade 9, she underwent surgery to insert a breathing tube into her neck. While attending school, she says, “I took very small course loads, as I couldn’t handle the full eight courses due to my being sick.” In Grade 11, Renee had to be home schooled because of her health.
At the age of 13, Renee started her own charity event. Since she spent so much time in SickKids Hospital, she thought it would be a great idea to raise funds to keep the toys, game systems, and craft supplies handy for others to enjoy. Renee’s Christmas Craft and Bake Sale was put into action in November 2002. The event has raised between $300 and $700 every year since.
Despite being in a wheelchair, living with a tracheotomy, using a feedtube, and being in pain everyday, Renee has developed a busy online life as a blogger and web designer, incorporating her love of music in both.
When Renee was in the hospital, a nurse introduced her to a music producer. They started collaborating on work with a non-profit organization helping children and teens with poverty, illness, and much more. “I love helping people,” she says. After attending events, Renee became more involved in promoting, moderating, and creating web pages for the events she was organizing.
Renee has a profound affect on each person she meets. She touches everyone with her strength and humour. She seems to light up the lives around her. As her brother Marco says, “She has never stopped herself from doing anything. She doesn’t give up.” Renee’s mother has been her never-ending support and advocate, always believing in her daughter’s potential. Caring and outgoing Renee always manages to have friends around. She can also be found on the computer chatting, consoling, offering advice — ready to help in any way she can.
By being such an inspirational and hard-working person, Renee’s story was made into a documentary called Suck it Up, Princess. It was broadcast on OMNI television this past March. The title for the documentary came about, she describes, when “someone was complaining and I turned around and said ‘suck it up, princess.'” She told the complainer, “Deal with it and get over it. There are worse things that can happen [in life].”
Renee describes how the documentary showcases living her life to the fullest. “Just because I am in a wheelchair does not mean I should be at home miserable and do nothing. Don’t think about what you can’t do; think about what you can do.”
Renee is an inspiration because she teaches us that we cannot let challenges get us down. “I get a great feeling after doing a charity event or even now getting messages about how my documentary has brought sunshine to someone’s life,” says Renee. Her story inspires people to suck it up and enjoy life, no matter what happens.
Jessica Vitullo is a York University student currently studying Professional Writing and Anthropology and is a freelance Journalist.
Good News Toronto – Our Everyday Heroes