My Blog

Cuddling a lion cub - Port Elizabeth, South Africa

My name is Bernadette (Bernie) Nolan. In 1992 I was in my final year of boarding school in Townsville when I noticed a small numb patch above my right knee and I started to fall over when I ran. Slowly I lost feeling and strength in my right leg. After spending most of the year in hospital I was diagnosed with a Glioma tumor in the central nervous system of the spinal cord. I went to Brisbane for a few months for radiotherapy treatment. Unfortunately the tumor continued to grow at a fast rate and by the beginning of the following year I started to loose mobility in my left leg also. I had a number of operations to remove the tumor resulting in my spinal cord being completely removed from T10 leaving me a paraplegic. Thankfully I am now cancer free.  

I was very fortunate that the hospital staff became like family and created many wonderful memories for me during these difficult years. My sense of adventure was developed from spending my time lying in a hospital bed just dreaming about life outside! I was also graced with the opportunity to meet many amazing people who encouraged my sense of adventure.

My first job was working in the office with Pure Pleasure Cruises. They were a cruise company that took tourists snorkelling out at the Great Barrier Reef. What a great bunch of people. We were all “Orphans” living in Townsville,  who had fun at work and play.

I learnt to scuba dive thanks to the crew at Mike Ball Dive Expedition. I was very lucky to be able to escape my serious world and go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. These experiences opened my eyes to the world.

For my 21st birthday I had a huge party with everyone I knew; my friends, family, hospital family and scuba diving colleges/mates. Secretly I thought this would be the last time I would get the chance to see everyone. I was given the most amazing birthday gift. Everyone chipped in and gave me a trip to Exmouth in WA to swim with the Whale Sharks. Unbelievable!

Unfortunately I had to wait another year until I was out of hospital to go on my travels. This extra year did give me the chance to research all the places I wanted to see in WA . I had a note book detailing every city I wanted to visit with a list of all the things to see and do in each city. (I did have a lot of time on my hands!) My note book became my lifeline of things I must do before I…

In 1997 I flew to WA and had the most amazing time travelling up and down the coast. This was freedom! I visited beautiful places like Margaret River, Albany, the Karri Forest where I went horse riding, in Geraldton I went tobogganing down sand dunes, in Broome I went on a camel ride along the famous cable beach, visited the dolphins in Monkey Mia and swam with my beloved Whale Sharks at Ningaloo Reef Exmouth. It was very emotional seeing my first Whale Shark. I didn’t think I would actually get to see them.

This is how I got the travel bug.  Seeing different places, having new experiences (good or bad) and facing new challenges makes life in a wheelchair enjoyable. I hope you enjoy reading about my travel adventures or misadventures and now my new role of motherhood!

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