Meet Melissa Abbott

- Future In Sight

Melissa Abbott and her therapy dog Bodie

Melissa Abbott is someone who believes in the power of words. She asks clients of her wellness business, Resilient RootZ Wellness, LLC, to pick their word of the year. Melissa’s word for 2024 is: worth.

Melissa lost her vision suddenly while working as a personal trainer at a local gym. She was 42 years old and in the best shape of her life. During this time she describes herself as “cut” and “ripped”, a bodybuilder doing triathlons. The course of her life changed in an instant one day when as she stood up from a bent-over position to put some wipes in a dispenser, everything went red. With arms stretched out and resorting to crawling at one point, Melissa made her way to her boss’ office and in a panicked voice told her boss she could not see.

Melissa’s boss took her to a local eye care facility where an ophthalmologist ran some tests before delivering the news that Melissa had a tumor and needed to be transferred to a specialist. Melissa called her husband who rushed her to Mass General where she stayed for a week while doctors ran tests to provide a formal diagnosis. Melissa’s tumor was a kind that is often associated with Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome (VHL). VHL can result in renal cell carcinomas or a cancerous tumor of the kidney. When the test results came back Melissa learned that her tumor was a hemangioma, a blood-filled vascular type of tumor not associated with cancer.

Because of its placement, doctors could not remove the tumor behind Melissa’s eye. Her tumor would be something she would have to live with for the rest of her life. Melissa describes this experience, noting periodic hemorrhaging that occurs when her tumor leaks blood into the clear gel that fills the eye, causing her immense pain. As for her vision? Melissa sees monocular vision, meaning she can only see out of one eye – her right eye. This form of vision has left Melissa without any depth perception. Today, Melissa wears a prosthetic over her retina; this helps trick her brain and her eye as they continue to try to communicate to create vision where none exists.

When Melissa returned home from the hospital after her diagnosis, her new circumstances resulted in a lot of frustration and several instances that highlighted a need for help. Melissa explains that in those early days of her vision loss, she fell a lot, enduring a number of concussions. So many so that she is now undergoing testing for a mild traumatic brain injury. Recognizing that she could not do it on her own, Melissa acted as her own advocate and found a team of professionals who could help.

Melissa says Future In Sight was there to help with not only the physical things. She believes that Future In Sight helped her to discover new ways to find herself again, using the newfound freedom she felt after learning to use a white cane as an example. This support proved more important than ever as Melissa’s tumor and coinciding vision loss set off a chain of medical reactions within her body. Melissa had been previously diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease, an inner ear disorder that causes hearing loss and vertigo, and Epilepsy. Both conditions had been in remission prior but the recent trauma her body had endured had brought both disorders back. She describes going from a healthy 42-year-old to an 89-pound woman on my couch in the fetal position. At that moment, Melissa was not sure she would survive.

Today, Melissa is not only surviving, she is thriving. She equates this to Future In Sight helping her to believe that she could actually have hopes and dreams for her future. When the gym she had been working for let her go after her vision loss, instead of accepting the situation as the end of her career, Melissa used it as an opportunity to do something she had always dreamed of doing: going back to school. She credits her commitment to this new chapter in her life to what she calls her resilient factors – Future In Sight, her Aunt, and her dog, Bodie.

As Melissa worked through her Master’s Degree, Future In Sight was there to support her needs and goals. With an unmatched resiliency, Melissa has continued a journey of life-long learning. However, despite receiving her Graduate Degree, becoming Board Certified, and also becoming a minister through the Universal Life Church, Melissa still finds herself struggling with her worth. She equates this to the uncertainty of her future, recognizing how her different disabilities and diagnoses will impact her as she ages.

At age 54, Melissa’s journey is far from over. As she navigates her future and her self-worth, Future In Sight will continue to be there to support her. At the same, Melissa helps Future In Sight support others like her by donating her expertise to teach Stronger Bones for a Stronger You, a virtual class that focuses on bone fortification to increase muscle strength, coordination and balance, which she believes leads to personal growth, power and vitality.

Future In Sight’s calendar of year-round group meetings, activities, and workshops is available to individuals of all ages and abilities, with nearly every event offered at no cost. Click here to view the activity calendar and sign up to join Melissa in her next virtual class.