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Woman Disabled By Mystery Illness Discovers New Ways To Pursue Passion For Nature.

When life takes something away from us, it can be incredibly difficult to come to terms with our new reality.

That was the case for Nerissa Dawn Cannon of Utah when she became disabled for unknown reasons in 2013. An avid lover of hiking, rock climbing, and traveling, Nerissa didn’t know how to move forward without the passions that helped her understand herself and the world.


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As her condition worsened, Nerissa had to rely on a wheelchair to get around, which made her favorite pastimes seem permanently out of reach. “Having struggled with mental illness for years prior to my physical challenges, I was plunged into a deep and persistent depression,” she said. Thankfully, a friend encouraged her to hold on for six more months.

In that time, Nerissa decided she would try as many new activities as possible, which was how she came across the organization that changed her life. No Barriers USA in a nonprofit that helps people use their strengths to better themselves and the world.

With their support, it wasn’t long before she was out hiking again with the help of an adaptive wheelchair. Little by little, she pushed her limits and found new ways to succeed.


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Since then, she’s returned to rock climbing and even summited Mount Bierstadt (which stretches 14,000 feet) in Colorado! And she caught the attention of Winnebago, a company that produces mobile homes.

When they asked if she’d try out their new wheelchair-accessible camper on a road trip from their headquarters in Forest City, Iowa, to Lake Tahoe, California, she quickly accepted the challenge. With her boyfriend and service dog along for the journey, she kayaked, hiked, and even drove her way to victory!


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This August, Nerissa went on Facebook to celebrate turning 30 and reflect on her experiences:

I never thought I would make it this far. Within this last decade I have both lost everything and found everything. Many times I thought my mental struggles would claim my life. … I find myself looking to the future now with wonder and excitement instead of dread. It’s a gift I am constantly striving to repay.


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Despite the many obstacles she’s faced, Nerissa’s persistence and determination have taken her to a place she never could have imagined in 2013. We’re so grateful to her for reminding us how much joy and adventure there is in the world.

Be sure to share her inspiring story with your friends.


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