Fountain Valley, CA
California State University, Long Beach
As a young child, Shirley MacDonald witnessed her mother fighting for her life as she struggled with cancer and the associated treatments. Her mother had always stressed the importance of academics and doing well and at the time, Shirley was not doing well in school and while she saw others playing sports she didn’t have the confidence in herself to go for it. When Shirley reached high school she went out for the soccer team. This became a passion for her and she trained hard every day playing forward then goalkeeper, a position in which she excelled. In 1992 Shirley was diagnosed with a progressive nerve disease called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Shirley and her family and friends joined together to press on for another fight. In 1999 she was referred to a pain management specialist and was able to manage her pain and return to school at Cerritos Community College where she became involved with Disabled Student Services. This motivated her to concentrate her studies in the area of social work and she transferred to Cal State Long Beach to complete her bachelor’s degree. Numerous starts and stops due to medical issues slowed her progress but she prevailed and pushed on towards her degree. In August 2008, all was looking good but one night she went to dinner with her best friend and was hit with severe back pain and was rushed to the emergency room. Three days later after numerous tests, doctors found an inflammatory mass and after a five-hour spinal decompression surgery, she awoke to find out that she was paralyzed. After six months of rehabilitation, Shirley is back at Cal State Long Beach, still using a wheelchair, still hard of hearing and moving forward as she works towards her goal of becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.