Breathe film poster

Breathe is an incredibly beautiful and uplifting film that made me rethink the power of love—particularly in my own life as it relates to my struggle with how others perceive my disability.

I was born deaf in one ear and with facial atresia (partial paralysis in one side of my face). As a result, my smile is sometimes uneven and I can’t blink my right eye. But I’ve learned not to let my disability—or people’s perception of me—define who I am.

During one scene in Breathe, Robin Cavendish, who is in a wheelchair after being paralyzed by polio, addresses his own issues with self-identity to a room full of doctors: “When you look at me, what do you see?” he asks. “Do you see a human being or do you see me as a creature?” Personally, I’ve experienced similar insecurities, especially when I meet new people and wonder how they may judge me based upon my appearance and how I function—or “can’t” function—as a hard-of-hearing individual.

For me, however, a turning point came after I met my husband, David, 13 years ago. He has always viewed me as a capable, compassionate and driven person. When I shared with him how I often felt self-conscious and fearful of meeting new people, he reminded me of how my laughter can light up a room. Much like the true commitment Robin must have felt with his wife Diana, David has shown me that no amount of fear or uncertainty could ever overpower the strength of pure love.

Still, doubt can sometimes creep back in, no matter how steadfast love is. Robin’s struggle with trusting Diana’s devotion was something I also connected with. David was my grounding support when I gave birth to our beautiful twin boys. But I was still riddled with the fear of failure—could I get through the delivery without my hearing aid? Would I “fail” as a mom if I couldn’t hear their cries through the night? David made me realize that my disability was not holding me back, but rather my openness to trust in our love for each other—and for our children—was what would empower us to succeed.

Breathe is a heartwarming film that proves hope and faith in the power of love can truly overcome any adversity—all you need to do is allow it.

Donna Lee with her husband David and twin boys in front of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in New York City (photo courtesy of Donna Lee).

Donna Lee is one of the founding members of Diversability, an award-winning movement to rebrand disability through the power of community.

Originally published at