Sometimes in life we have the opportunity to come across people who have been propelled into positive change through difficulties and suffering that were beyond their control – health issues, job loss, death of a loved one, etc. For these people, the catalyst was in fact the hardship or adversity they faced.
Kim Canavan is no stranger to suffering … but instead of letting her circumstances dictate and control her attitude and life course, she battled through it and was victorious. If you had met Kim a little over ten years ago you would have probably thought that she “had it all”. Healthy, happily married and the owner of a successful system consulting business (with clients such as the Kennedy Space Center and the State of Alaska), life seemed perfect. But things would change drastically for Kim and it would start with her receiving a diagnosis of Meniere’s Disease. This crippling disorder of the inner ear, which has been suggested as the reason why Dutch Post- Impressionist Vincent Van Gogh cut his ear off, caused Kim to have symptoms that appeared out of nowhere and ranged from a ringing in the ear and pressure to severe vertigo and loss of hearing. Kim describes the episodes of vertigo as “violent” but remembers that time in her life as a period where she “first began to have a real faith”. “I realized during the episodes of vertigo and hearing loss that even though something in your life is taken away from you, if you have faith, God replaces it with something better,” explains Kim. “After the spells were over, things looked amazing. Colors were more vibrant, brighter and clearer than they had ever been before. It was taking notice of those things that made me joyous and happy even while going through a tough situation.”
As the disease progressed, Kim decided to undergo a surgery suggested for Meniere’s patients in hopes of preventing the disease from getting any worse. “Unfortunately the surgery had its complications. Although no one would admit to it, it appeared that the drill was dropped during surgery and punctured my brain at the brain stem. When they tried to repair that, they then hit my facial nerve,” she shares. Kim woke up from surgery 100% paralyzed on the right side of her face. In addition, the area of the brain that was damaged controlled her ability to walk, read and recognize people. She also completely lost her hearing on the right side.
Kim’s bad News didn’t stop there. Shortly after the surgery, she lost her job, had to deal with the loss of her father and her marriage began to dissolve. Life as Kim knew it was over. “The divorce was the final straw. I thought to myself as long as I had my family there to back me up I might make it through, but I realized I didn’t even have that. There was a very low point that I had gotten to where I really felt that if this is how the world was, how my life was, I didn’t want to be around any longer,” she tells. “Things were very difficult for me after the surgery. I couldn’t see light, I couldn’t walk and I had severe facial and character agnosia – meaning I could not read or recognize faces. It was a difficult time.”
“There is a difference in professing you have faith, actual practicing your faith and having faith in faith. God knew that I just needed little things, little victories here and there and because of those victories I began to believe that things were going to get better for me. I realized that even though so much had been taken away from me, I was given a gift – complete freedom. I was now given the opportunity to do whatever I wanted – start life over – so many of my responsibilities had been lessened and I had the time now to completely focus on getting myself better and building a new life for myself. It truly was the greatest blessing.”
Kim made the decision to go back to school for her Ph.D in Information Technology and Theoretical Mathematics – forcing herself to retrain her mind to read, to slowly begin to recognize things again, to walk, etc. She also decided to move to Florida. “Once I got to Florida I traveled for a bit, goofed off a bit and grieved for a little bit. I walked the Inca trail through Machu Pichu in Peru, I took a trip to Bali and a few other places, and after a while, I decided it was time to come back home and get back to work,” she explains.
Kim focused on finding a new job and sent her resume out to more employers than she can remember. “Something just wasn’t clicking. I wasn’t getting a lot of feedback and then one day this gentleman called me and said ‘Who do you think you’re fooling with this resume? You can’t work for anyone else with your background and experience. You need to be your own boss,'” Kim recalls. And with that conversation, Kim decided to explore the possibility of buying into a franchise and owning her own business once again. “I had been praying to God about what I should do as far as work and then I meet this man who educated me on all of the different types of franchises that are out there.” The one that struck a place in her heart? Fish Window Cleaning. “The Fish Franchise appealed to me – taking the idea of the fish from the bible in terms of ‘if you teach someone how to fish, then they can eat for the rest of their life’. We opened our doors in the greater Boca Raton area in January of 2010 and now have 7 fulltime employees. I know God has blessed us because in a time where many companies are letting people go, we are actually in a position to hire a few more people,” explains Kim. “I really feel that when the chips are down, take something that you are good at and go out there and do your own work. If you have faith and ask that God’s will be done in your life, amazing things can happen.”
Although Kim still suffers from some facial paraylasis, she is happy to report that she does not take any medication and is free of regular doctor’s visits. “At that rock bottom moment, when I had lost just about everything in my life, I had to be completely honest and just get down on my knees,” she tells.
Her advice for others? “Do not disrespect God. If you need a job, and you are praying to God for a job and an opportunity to make money, then you take whatever He offers you. If you show Him your faith, He will give you more and continue to bless you. If you need help and have been praying for help, then be thankful for the help that He sends your way. Because if we still think we can be selfish and choosy about what we should “get”, then things are obviously not bad enough for us yet. God wants to see us step out in faith – and when He believes you and sees you doing this, you will see that things start to get better.”
Raised Catholic and stating that she didn’t have much faith before she was tested through these various trials, Kim now proudly declares that “there is nothing more important to me than God. I like to think that my faith could not be stronger, but I look forward to it growing and becoming stronger. I am looking for that infinity in terms of my relationship with God. Through everything, He has truly blessed me and He can do this for others – it all starts with faith.”