Five years ago, Faith & Friends profiled Rhianna Martin. The young 11-year-old was diagnosed with retinoblastoma—cancer of the eyes—when she was four and lost her sight a year later.
But Rhianna did not let blindness get in the way of her life. An award-winning student, she wrote poetry, rock-climbed and even learned how to bike. “At one point, it seemed like our world was crashing down around us,” said Rhianna's mother, Leone, in 2008. “But God has shown us that everything is going to be OK. We know there's a very limited number of things she can't do.”
Faith & Friends interviewed Rhianna and Leone in their Campbell River, B.C., home:
Q. Bring readers up to date on your life?
Rhianna Martin: I'm 16 and I am in Grade 11 at high school. I still have my Brailist, who has been with me since Grade 2, and my visioning teacher.
Q. How do you navigate from class to class?
RM: I'm either with a friend or I make it through the hallways on my own. I have the location of the classrooms memorized.
Q. What are your favourite subjects?
RM: History and English. I love the humanities and I'm planning to pursue a degree in history.
Q. How do you handle the course load??
It's not easy, because I have both math and science in the same semester. But, it's been okay. I e-mail my teachers assignments. I've got a Brail computer and a my laptop that has screen-reader software.
Q. What has been the biggest challenge you've faced over the last five years?
RM. At the end of Grade 10, I had to start taking the city bus to school and it took a while to get used to navigating the system. While my Orientation and Mobility instructor has helped me get used to new routes, it's really up to me. Having to speak for myself and not just have someone else do things for me was a big leap in terms of my independence.
Q. Leone, what do you see as Rhianna's biggest challenge going forward?
Leone Martin: Well, with only a year and a half left before she possibly leaves the nest, her challenge is to get the basics of looking after herself down, like learning how to cook—
R. Hey! (laughs)
L. —and she needs to learn things such as how to do her own laundry.
RM. I am learning, though . . . slowly!
L. Yeah. But we need to get those just normal housekeeping duties down. So that's the challenge for the next year!
Q. Where do you plan to go after high school?
RM. I'm looking at Prince Edward Island right now.
Q, Wow. That's a huge step!
RM. (laughs) I know, right! Even two months ago, I wasn't thinking any farther than Saskatchewan because that's where my relatives are. But things change.
Q. Has your faith grown and matured in these last five years?
RM. It has. In fact, I rededicated my life to God two years ago. My faith has just become more real in a sense, just knowing I have to rely on Him and not on myself as much.
Q. What about you, Leone? How has your faith grown during this time?
LM. We've always believed that God has a bigger plan for her, a bigger purpose. We don't understand why He allowed her to become blind but I firmly believe God is sovereign and in control. It's scary that in a year and a half, Rhianna could be out in the world on her own. How is she going to do that? How is she going to manage? How is she going to do this? How—
RM. Mom! (laughs)
LM. (laughs) I have to believe that God is going to take care of her. As much as I'd like to be, I can't be there every step of the way, so I have to rely on Him to give me peace.
Q. Do you feel like your mom?
LM. (laughs) Not exactly, no. Like my mother said, I have to learn the basics, like the cooking and all that stuff, because otherwise I really won't get it right, but I'm excited and nervous at the same time.