Photo © Courtesy of Alicia Grace
By Sydney Borton
It’s true what they say; not all heroes wear capes. Some wear rainbow-knit sweaters.
I met Alicia Grace in high school, where we had the same second-period drama class. Her happiness easily spread to others around her, and between her cheerful attitude and her infectious laughter, she lit up every room she entered.
As I got to know Alicia, I learned that underneath her sweet exterior was a secret warrior—Alicia is blind, a brain tumour survivor, and living with chronic illness.
When she was only six months old, Alicia was diagnosed with a childhood brain tumour called a craniopharyngioma. It is a rare type of brain tumour that grows at the base of the brain, near the optic nerves that connect your eyes to your brain. The tumour caused Alicia to go completely blind in her left eye, and lose most of the vision in her right eye. Now 21-years-old, Alicia is navigating life as a blind girl in a sighted world—and doing it with ease.
What’s inspiring about Alicia is her ability to remain positive. She says this is due to the support of her friends and family, and by choosing to surround herself with positivity every day.
But Alicia also creates positivity by working with charitable organizations within and outside of her community. She is a National Youth Council member and Ambassador for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), a foundation that has been important to her since she discovered she was blind. Alicia works alongside the CNIB to help raise awareness of visual impairments and share her experiences.
She’s also worked with the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada by participating in their yearly walk to end brain tumours and by joining their new SUPERKIDS committee, a program designed to create lesson plans for teachers and educators to teach children about brain health and brain tumours.
“Living with a brain tumour and vision loss, as well as chronic illnesses, has been tough, and some days I may not be so positive, but at the end of the day, I choose joy.
“My diagnosis is something I wasn’t able to control, but how I live with it is something I can control. If that means sometimes I dance around in my hospital gown as I get MRIs… I’ll find a way to make myself laugh.”
Representation of chronic illness, something that is severely lacking in mainstream media, is important to Alicia, and compels her to share her experiences through social media.
“I never had anyone I could relate to in the media or on TV,” Alicia said. “I started to share my story so I could potentially be that person for kids… and show them that no matter what, you can do it and be successful.”
Alicia shares her personal experiences and positivity through her social media accounts @AliciaGraceOfficial