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First blind nurse in Minnesota pens lifestyle book by Idowu Olabode : August 14, 2016, 02:25:24 PM
What do you do after battling to become the first registered blind nurse in Minnesota, fighting cancer multiple times and are up against all odds for survival?

In Shelli Stanger Nelson’s case, that meant writing a book.


“Your Story is Your Medicine,” released in the beginning of August, was a project Nelson had considered for many years during her career but had never gotten around to seriously tackling. But after being diagnosed with lymphoma, the time seemed right to share her story and lifestyle, as well as find her own way to heal herself.
“I’ve had medical challenges, and I’ve also been through common things like divorce and domestic violence,” Nelson said. “The book tells a lot of things. How do I deal with challenges? The way that I look at challenges is opportunities.”

Throughout the book, Nelson uses her life as an illustration of how people can face any challenge, from physical, emotional, financial or whatever situation might make someone feel inadequate.
“What I do is honor and respect challenges, feel the real fear or anger I might have, and then and only then do I try to find a lesson or an opportunity out of it,” Nelson said.
And she certainly has had her fair share of challenges.

“On paper, I don’t look very good,” Nelson said. “But that is what makes me remarkable.”
Her litany of medical issues stem from childhood diabetes, which resulted in needing three organ transplants (two kidneys and pancreas to become insulin independent), 11 stents in her heart, three bouts of cancer and blindness.

Listing her medical complications is no small order – but Nelson has explained it enough through her career and now as an author and speaker that she can do it with ease, and due to what she calls realistic optimism, she can even do it with a smile. But she doesn’t want her happiness to be confused with eternal optimism.

“I think that is bologna,” Nelson said. “I think an important thing that I do differently from other people … is a lot of people will try to push away the truth of the situation. That’s not what I am. I’m not the eternal optimist. I’m a realist. I’m a realistic optimist. When things are bad, I don’t feel like I don’t have to pretend that things are bad.”

Nelson was already a registered nurse when she became blind at 23. Like all nurses, she had to renew her license after a few years.

She called the Minnesota Board of Nursing to find out where she could receive resources and materials to study up in a pre-internet world, and that is when they discovered her blindness.
“They pushed this huge panic button,” Nelson said. “I was on the telephone, and I said, ‘I lost my sight, not my mind. I’m sure there are still things I can do as a nurse.’”

She hired an attorney who was a legal advocate for the blind and worked with the board to keep her license. She ended up developing a cardiovascular education program, as well as discharge planning and other tasks over her career, but she needed her nursing license to be able to do it.
After 25 years with the Fairview Health system, Nelson retired.

She still holds her license, and said she probably always will, but after
successfully completing chemotherapy, she decided to pursue a branch of career – therapy and bio-energy medicine, which she credits for her own healthy life and outlook.

“Because I had a lot of things wrong with me physically … I needed to find ways beyond our traditional medicine to help me stay alive,” Nelson said.

So, she went back to school to study psychology and energy medicine, and in 2009 ended up opening the only licensed school of bio-energy healing and transpersonal psychology in the upper Midwest, the Rukha Academy of Healing Arts and Science.

While many may not be able to look past her blindness (she calls vision a luxury, not a necessity), Nelson doesn’t identify herself by the ailments she has encountered.

“The bottom line is that I’m an ordinary person who has recognized that everybody can do extraordinary things even though they are average,” Nelson said. “You don’t need to be an outlier to be exceptional.”
She now happily lives with her husband Brent and dog in Bloomington.

Nelson will be holding a book launch party, free and open to the public, 7-9 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16, at the Bloomington Center for the Arts. There will live music and food, as well as a book signing.

Contact Ethan Groothuis at

Source : Minnesota Sun

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