"Every step I take propels me to the next"

Eugenia DeRue

Eugenia DeReu is originally from Rochester, NY, but has lived most of her life in Buffalo with her “Buffalo boy” husband of 32 years.

In 2020, Eugenia inexplicably started losing sight. "We didn't know what was going on for quite a while," Eugenia reflects. Then in 2021, she was diagnosed with a tumor the size of a baseball that was pushing her brain backward. The tumor damaged her eyes, as did the post surgery radiation therapy. "So, I am now legally blind, and it will not get better," she states.

The brain tumor impacted many aspects of Eugenia’s life for a while. She even had to relearn how to walk.

But she credits her ability to push through all this adversity to her Irish roots. Her "stubborn Irish roots," as Eugenia describes, means that she is determined to do what she can and adapt when she can. "And that's what I try to do every day now. It's not always easy, but that's my motto. I do what I can and adapt."

Looking for ways to break the isolation that can come along with vision loss and giving up the car keys, Eugenia explored local resources like the senior center. As she is just 63, she wondered if it would be a good fit. "I thought, ‘Oh, I'm not old enough for senior center.’ But I realized, 'Nope, I fit right in.' You meet all sorts of people there and you enhance each other’s lives."

Always an art lover, Eugenia found a watercolor class at the center, and she especially loves how the instructor has accommodated her needs. “He doesn’t put me on the spot but has adapted to me and the way I need to do art now that is different than before. He’s helped me get back to loving art!”

Eugenia has also recently tapped back into her passion for reading. “I’ve belonged to a book club forever with these five friends, and I was so happy to get back to that," she says. "My daughter set me up with an Audible account, so now I listen to books. You know, I’ve found that I actually like it better to be read to.”

Eugenia found Hadley through a recommendation from a state agency. "They told me about the Insights & Sound Bites podcast. And when I heard it, it really broke through that sense of isolation I had. Winter was coming and I was in my house all the time. I just started listening to these stories and it really had an impact," she recalls.

"One gentleman on the show talked about how he leaned on his faith due to his vision loss. That got me to thinking about my faith. I was brought up Catholic but got away from it for various reasons. But hearing that gentleman’s story got me to reconsider my own faith. I found a church that has given me a nice, small, very welcoming, very loving community. It has truly helped me. And it all started with listening to that gentleman’s story on the Hadley podcast."

“Every step I take propels me to the next,” she reflects. “What I love most about the Insights podcast is that it’s real. It’s not a hundred percent positive." Hearing what others have gone through and how they made it through is just the encouragement Eugenia needed.

And while she describes herself as a natural introvert, Eugenia has spoken up and contributed her voice and story to both our Insights & Sound Bites and Hadley Presents podcasts. And for this contribution, she has been nominated a Hadley HERO.

Hadley’s podcast, Eugenia says, gives her a sense of connection. “It's like my community. It's my vision community. It makes me feel better in so many ways.”