Bedridden for more than 20 years, Vivian Goh continues to maintain an optimistic outlook and lives her dreams passionately. Using the eye gaze device to operate her laptop, she is a proud owner of an online store. More recently, she also added another credential under her belt – writer of Bed-ridden and Unstoppable, a book which chronicles her life experiences. Vivian has donated the proceeds from the sale of her book to four beneficiaries, one of which is SPD. In this excerpt from her book, Vivian shares her thoughts on and experiences in running her online store.
Some have wondered does having spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Type 2 stop me from doing the things I want to do? No. In fact, it actually spurs me on to do the things I want to do.
Though it’s a fact that I can’t walk or use my limbs, there are still many other things that I can do. Maybe because my mother raised me in a positive environment, I have never felt that I was inadequate. Many things that others can do, I can do them too. I taught myself to read and to use the computer. I learnt to sell things and do business. I have an online shop where people can place their orders.
I’ve been selling things since I was 10 years old. In 1990, the Internet wasn’t around yet. Photos of popular actors and actresses were very much in demand. As a 10-year-old, I decided that I would sell them. At that time, teen magazines would have a column for readers to place an ad for friends or pen pals. I put up a notice on these message boards with my details, and people soon started to contact me to buy photos of their ‘idols’. I made my first dollar from this little business.
Today, the Internet has helped me expand my business. I’m known online as Vivian Bao Kah Liao. It’s an apt name because I sell all sorts of things. My customers usually contact me via Facebook or WhatsApp. When an order comes in, I will check that my supplier has the design available. If he does, I’ll confirm the type of mailing the customer prefers. Once he or she has paid for the order, I’ll tell my supplier to send the goods directly to the address.
Sometimes customers may want something that I currently don’t sell. I’m more than happy to look for it on their behalf. Some customers have tasked me to find certain products for them on Chinese shopping sites. I’ll find it and arrange for it to be delivered. The customer then pays me for my service.
My biggest challenge in doing business is when people buy from me out of pity. People buy once and that’s it, because they only bought an item to help me rather than actually needing it. I’d rather they didn’t do that. Pity money is easy money but it’s neither sustainable nor satisfying.
I hope that when people buy an item from me, it’s because they need or want that item. Then it means that they will be happy with their purchase. You can see the full range of products I sell on my website: vivianbaokahliao.com. I hope that the things I sell are things that people like, find useful, and will actually use. I get a sense of satisfaction knowing that.
Don’t Give Up
Sometimes, I do wonder what kind of person would I have turned out to be if I had a healthy body, leading a comfortable life without any suffering. Would I still be mentally strong? Would I still want to run an online business? Would I have such a close relationship with my mother?
There is no way of knowing for sure. But I do know that my physical limitations have brought me a lot of mental strength and creativity. And my mother’s constant and unconditional care have given me the best mother-daughter relationship anyone can ever hope for.
My life cannot be described as blissful for sure. But I’m grateful for all the lessons I’ve learnt about life, all the amazing people who have helped me, and the strengthening of my own character.
I wrote the book Bed-ridden and Unstoppable for the purpose of sharing what I’ve gone through and encourage those who are facing struggles in life.
My life goal is to accomplish the things I want to do. In the past, I was able to use my hands. I could hold a book to read, I could cross-stitch which I really enjoyed. So, when I could no longer use my hands, I was a bit sad. But I also thought I could do other things. I can still use the computer to do things. There’s no point fixating on the issue. If you keep fixating on the same point, you’d never be able to walk out of it. If you can’t do A, you can do B.
At the start of this article, I said that whatever else that people can do, I also can do. And so, now that you’ve read my story, let me encourage you: I can do it, so can you.
This article was adapted with Vivian’s permission from her book, Bed-ridden and Unstoppable.
Cover photo credit: Jay Yao Photography