Picture Perfect | guest blogger Liliana Blood

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on January 22, 2019 # Health, Mobility

At 18 months old I became paraplegic, I was diagnosed with an astrocytoma (cancerous tumor) of the spine. After completing two and a half years of chemotherapy, I started to learn how to navigate life in a hot pink wheelchair. In my world there was nothing different about me, my wheels were my legs. Just like every other three-year-old girl, I stunted in a white petticoat and slip-on Mary Janes; even though my Mary Janes had straps on the back so they wouldn’t fly off when I popped prize worthy wheelies. Additionally, I kept my mom's hands full when I told her I wanted to become a role model. I wanted to be the star of Macy’s and Froot Loops commercials. I created a T-Shirt line with a cartoonist known as PackNPals. I wanted to spread my positivity and inspire others to know that no matter the obstacle as long as you believe in yourself, have a strong support system, and the will to never give up; anything is possible.

My mom was not one to be in the background either, so we felt the need to be vocal about Spinal Cord Injuries and Pediatric Cancer. My first TV appearance was a telethon, my platform was beginning to build; even though I would’ve preferred to be walking in platform high heel shoes.

My family would go where a voice was needed, and so with my two older brothers, Italian mom, and aunt who practically lived for photographs and scrapbooking, we packed into the van and headed for Washington. At such a young age rolling down the hills of Washington and zooming down the congress floors gained me a lot of speeding tickets and attention. During our trip, I met Dana Reeve and was asked to become a sponsor child for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. I was honored to stay connected with them throughout the years and there support and knowledge has helped me through countless roadblocks.

In 2007 I wanted to truly pursue modeling, I did not think I would come across so many roadblocks. I went on hundreds of auditions but I was always turned down for either the wheelchair or because I wasn’t disabled enough for the part of the person in a chair. I was unable to get my foot in the door! Luckily, I have an Italian mom and she would talk to the Costco manager for hours or a random citizen in the dentist office, she would share my story with anyone and everyone.

Through her persistence, a woman had handed my mom a simple business card, but this card led us to a woman who is now my role model and was the key to my Hollywood and red carpet dreams. She was able to book me jobs with Toys R Us’s big Christmas book and their alternative magazine. The only place my wheelchair would fit was in the boy’s toys section with a telescope. I didn’t mind, I am always watching the stars! The biggest role I landed was in a TV show surrounding the life of puppets. It continues to make new episodes and airs on PBS. Do you know the show? Sesame Street!Being behind the scenes of Sesame Street felt like an Alternative Universe. 30 seconds of show time took up to eight hours to set up. I’ve never seen so much time and effort being put into grooming Oscar the Grouch. For the first time in Sesame Street history, they were going to introduce a golden retriever puppet named Brandeis.

Brandeis was struggling because he couldn't find a job right for him until he discovered he could become a guide dog. My role on the episode was to be his owner and showed how he would retrieve items I had dropped. This was so empowering for me, the episode raised awareness for people in wheelchairs and the role of guide dogs and their everyday life. Knowledge and education is the foundation for everything. If the younger generations are educated about life in a wheelchair I believe there would be more opportunities than closed doors. As a growing teenager in a chair, I will continue to fight and advocate and fight to make this change!

Liliana Blood is a seventeen-year-old young woman and a pediatric cancer survivor, who navigates life in a manual wheelchair. She created a T-Shirt line known as PackNPals, with a multitude of designs. Each character wears a pair of shoes, a symbol of her journey to walk again. She donates these T-Shirts to children and adults in hospitals, as well as selling them at community fundraisers. Liliana is a full time model and actress, working with an agent; while also attending high school. An advocate for those affected by pediatric cancer and spinal cord injuries, Liliana strives toward inspiring others and leaving her wheelchair behind.