Linda Noble Topf
4. Not Your Average Joe’s.
“They provide a gluten-free menu on request, and the food is consistent and delicious.”
5. Sarasota, Fla.
“When I found that there were wheelchairs made for going on the beach, I thought, ‘I could actually walk on the beach, with my husband wheeling me, and put my feet in the ocean.’”
MLT: What was the inspiration behind writing You Are Not Your Illness?
LNT: I was diagnosed [with Multiple Sclerosis] when I was 27 years old. I didn’t want to make it about me, so I made an organization called the MS Initiative. I wanted to find out how people felt about things, how they related to themselves, how they related to each other, to their families and about how things change. The MS initiative lasted for five years and was really wonderful. As the illness progressed, I couldn’t do it any longer. I took that information I had gathered, the messages and learning I had acquired, and put that into the book calledYou Are Not Your Illness,which I wrote in 1995.
MLT: What about your book Wheelchair Wisdom?
LNT: Wheelchair Wisdomis going to be two years old. I have been approached to do a second launch so that it reaches the people we want it to. Even though it won lots of awards, it wasn’t out in the world the way I know it can be. I just signed a contract for Wheelchair Wisdom to have a second launch and to digitize it.
MLT: How has your life path changed since your diagnosis?
LNT: I have my masters in psychology and theology. I have been an ordained minister since 1984. I am a wellness coach and speaker and I am always counseling people professionally, including people who have just been diagnosed. Because I have been married for 39 years, I do a lot of work with couples. I am well equipped to handle when people have breakdowns in relationship.
MLT: How is art a part of your story?
LNT: After I graduated art school—it was the time of the Vietnam War, Watergate—I designed a lithograph of the American flag with the red stripes of the flag all tangled and tied up in knots at the end. It’s still hanging in the Library of Congress. Given how insane this electionhas been, I brought it out again. The Philadelphia Art Museum accepted it as part of their contemporary art gallery. It makes a statement of possibility and hope. There is hope out there and we just have to look for the solution.
MLT: Tell me about the exhibit you designed.
LNT: I designed an exhibit in the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia. The museum opened in 2000 and I went to it and saw that it was designed in a spiral. I went to the founder and said ‘There’s nothing here representing anybody in a situation of physical limitation.’ He said, ‘Hand me a proposal.’ Since I am a designer, I said sure and within three months it was an exhibit that was first called Exceptional Americans Who Have Achieved Remarkable Success. The exhibit is now featuredon the third floor and was renamed Inspiration. The exhibit includes Helen Keller, Christopher Reeve, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles.