Angela Winfield had a good childhood.
Sure, she had to wear thick glasses and needed large-print reading material, but she was happy and relatively carefree.
When she was 4, Winfield was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, the most common form of childhood arthritis, which — in some cases — causes eye disease.
Winfield, of Auburn, said her arthritis caused glaucoma, uveitis and cataracts. And although she could still see, she was classified as legally blind at the age of 10. When she lost the sight in her left eye, Winfield said, she realized her life wouldn’t exactly be easy.
“It started to hit home that my life was going to be different,” she said.
As she made her way through middle school and high school, Winfield said her eyesight continued to deteriorate. Rather than bullying her, Winfield said, her peers simply ignored her because they did not know how to approach her illness.
But Winfield said she found ways to stay positive. That is, until her rheumatoid arthritis flared up for the first time in 10 years.
She was in her sophomore year at Barnard College of Columbia University in New York City, and just wrote off the pain in her head as a bad headache. Then, the vision in her right eye started to fade, and Winfield said her doctor wasn’t sure if it would ever return.
At that moment, Winfield said she realized many of the milestones average young adults look to attain — such as a driver’s license — were becoming out of reach.
Mourning the loss of her vision, Winfield fell into a period of depression, she said. She felt sorrow for what rheumatoid arthritis took from her, and wistful for the avenues she felt she could no longer pursue.
But by the time she graduated from Cornell Law School, Winfield said, her sadness subsided when she discovered how good it felt to help others, to be an advocate. Suddenly, she realized her blindness didn’t have to destroy her dreams.
“I thought, ‘Who cares? I’ve got this one life,’” Winfield recalled. “It was a very freeing experience."
So instead of loathing her disability, Winfield said she accepted it, folding her blindness into the fabric of her personality.
“I had to figure out how to make that part of me,” she explained. “The things that you think might limit you don’t have to.”
Realizing the power of her newly adopted personal philosophy, Winfield decided to share her story — and her thoughts — with others.
Winfield founded Blind Faith Enterprises, an organization through which the attorney gives motivational speeches and coaching sessions when she is not working as an associate for Hiscock & Barclay, a Syracuse law firm.
Recently, Winfield made her writing debut when “Blind Faith,” one of her short stories, made its way into the most recent "Chicken Soup for the Soul" book, “The Power of Positive.”
Winfield said she decided to write about her experience with rheumatoid arthritis and her journey to accepting her blindness to help others make peace with their own disabilities.
“It’s all really perspective on how you view things,” she said.
Learning to live with your limitations, Winfield said, is the first step to success. After that, the world is full of open doors.
“Anything is possible,” she said, a smile in her voice. “I’d like to say I have unlimited vision.”