WELCOME TO PANDATEES!
I’m Amanda, and together with my husband Adam we created this t-shirt and apparel company to shine a spotlight on disability, mental health, illness, being different and loving yourself. I’m Australian and Adam’s Canadian, and we’re a 30-something, unapologetically childfree married couple, living together in the UK with our Romanian street dogs Harry Potter and Angie.
All stories start somewhere, and this one starts in 2016 when I was diagnosed with a rare neurological condition caused by an autoimmune response to cancer. In my case, antibodies attacked healthy cells in my cerebellum, the part of the brain that deals with balance and coordination, and I lost my ability to walk. My speech, memory and energy levels were also affected. I was treated with chemotherapy, radiation, and a double mastectomy without reconstruction. Today I am cancer free, but the neurological damage is done, and my disability is permanent. It’s taken some adjustment, but I’m proud of my new flat self and determined not to let my limited mobility quash my spirit of adventure. When we left our old home of the Netherlands for our new one in the UK, however, I faced a new hurdle. I had to give up my government-sponsored mobility aids and haven’t been able to afford to replace them myself.
Around the same time as our move, an Australian footballer started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for legal fees after being fired for making homophobic comments. I couldn’t believe that crowdfunding was being used to support bigotry and discrimination instead of to help people in legitimate need. A friend suggested that I start my own GoFundMe to raise money for a new electric wheelchair, but there are people out there who need help more than I do. It just didn’t feel right to ask for such a thing before looking for another way to help myself - I wanted a way to raise money without accepting charity.
Through my instagram page I’ve slowly been finding my voice as a newly disabled person, and have felt validated and inspired by quotes and slogans that help express to the world my new reality. Working with this, Adam suggested putting some of these inspirational messages on t-shirts to sell as a fundraiser, which has now evolved into us designing my own art and type tees, selling the t-shirts, and eventually other apparel too. Our name for our venture was easy; my closest friends have always called me Panda, so Pandatees was born.
Pandatees. Wear your voice.
For more information on the charity I support please visit: EURORDIS.org. If you’d like to understand more about my condition, please visit: rarediseases.org, or see my instagram account @the_struggles_of_amanda.