As a small child Cathy Birchall had no idea her eyesight was anything other than ‘normal’. In that time of childish ignorance, her early years consisted of climbing her indistinct trees and playing with her indistinct friends. Often however, her lack of sight left her excluded and sitting on schoolyard walls as other pupils played netball, hockey, or simply ran around as youngsters do. Making her way through that painful time, she slowly came to understand how Retinitus Pigmentosa – a genetic disorder – would one day rob her of something we all take for granted; her sight.
Eventually she transferred at 14 to a specialist educational setting for visually impaired children after many years of being miserable in a ‘normal’ school. For the first time she felt happy but it was not to last as two years later she had to transfer back into mainstream college. It was during this period she met and fell in love with Peter and they were to marry when she was 22.
Her sight continued to deteriorate over time until she realised one day that she had not been out alone for six years. Thus her first Guide Dog, Petra, appeared. It was during this adjustment to her newfound freedom that a second major blow occurred; Peter was diagnosed with Leukaemia. All through the subsequent illness Cathy and Petra made their way between home and hospital but sadly the illness proved to be terminal. It claimed Peter’s life in 1999 aged 52 and Cathy found herself blind and alone after nineteen years of marriage.
Over the next seven year’s she turned to education and it was within this period she first met Bernard. According to Cathy, what happened at that meeting was instantaneous and left no doubt that something special was going to happen in her life.
When she embarked on being the first blind person to circle the world by motorcycle she knew that such a journey would be about accepting that many things are possible despite how things may appear. What she never knew at the time was how true it would all be when they were in trouble and a long, long, way from home. What became apparent to her as she travelled the world’s roads, surrounded by strange places and languages, was that life does indeed involve a very simple truth.
All you have to do is believe.