A woman who has battled life-threatening illnesses has been hailed a hearing hero for championing better rights for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Suzi Rees, 27, of Kettering, was struck with a rare form of cancer when she was just 19, which left her partially deaf and with a 40 per cent chance of survival.
During her treatment she was hit with a double blow when she contracted meningitis and lost what hearing she had left.
But now Suzi has been crowned Specsavers Sound Barrier Star 2012 for her work to make adventure pursuits accessible not only to the deaf and hard of hearing, but people affected by disabilities of all sorts.
Determined to carry on life as normal, Suzi has set up an adventure holiday website after being told she couldn’t rock climb and enjoy adventurous pursuits because she was deaf.
She said: “I was determined not to let being deaf stand in the way of a normal life. I was angry to be turned away from the pursuits I loved and could see no reason why I, or anyone else suffering a disability, should be completely excluded.”
Suzi was presented with her award by Dallas star Charlene Tilton, who became a hearing ambassador for the awards after speaking about her own hearing loss, which she has suffered for more than four decades. Charlene said: “Suzi is an incredible young woman who really is an inspiration to us all.
“What she has achieved is just amazing – it has been an honour being involved in these awards and Suzi is a deserving winner.”
Music-loving Suzi never expected that her life could change so much in eight years, from being diagnosed with cancer in her late teens, resulting in tumours spreading throughout her body. Numerous operations meant she completely lost her hearing in her right ear by the time she was 23. Only months later, meningitis left her completely deaf in her left ear too. She said: “These awards just top off everything I’ve done over the past few years to come out fighting, and I feel truly honoured to have won.”
The awards, run by Specsavers in aid of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, celebrate those in the deaf or hard of hearing community who have overcome the odds to achieve something incredible.