Re'Gena Bell-Roberts was making her way toward Hollywood in 1975, having just returned from working as a wardrobe person on a documentary featuring former Good Times star Esther Rolle. She had a goal of appearing in movies as an actress.
Everything changed when the Pasco native got back to Seattle, where she attended the University of Washington. On May 21, 1975, she was shot in the neck by her fiancee's mistress, paralyzing her from the neck down.
But Bell-Roberts, now 62, did not use her condition as an excuse.
"I'm a happy woman," she said. "I've learned to live with my disability. I feel good about my life."
Bell-Roberts returns to the spotlight today, appearing on national TV on the Steve Harvey Show as a Mother's Day "Harvey's Hero."
The road to the show has been a long and difficult one, but Bell-Roberts said she has learned a good deal over the years. She went through months of rehabilitation to regain use of her hands and arms, while cooking and cleaning for the triplets that she had at 21, three years before she was shot. She moved the family to Los Angeles, where she went on to graduate with honors from UCLA.
In the 1980s, she returned to Washington, living first in Kennewick, where she still has family in the area, then Seattle.
Bell-Roberts became involved in the community and an advocate for the disabled. While in Seattle, she served on the Governor's Committee for Disability Issues and Employment for two years and on the board of the Seattle Housing Authority for seven years.
She even ran unsuccessfully for Seattle City Council in the 1990s, campaigning to make public buildings more accessible.
Cat Gibson, a lifelong friend from Pasco, recalls when Bell-Roberts wanted to go to a bank in Seattle. There was no slope in the curb outside, which prevented her from taking her motorized wheelchair inside. Bell-Roberts simply took her wheelchair into the drive-through.
"We just both thought that was hilarious," Gibson said. "Just to see some of the obstacles she's overcome, she's kind of a pioneer in that kind of stuff."
Bell-Roberts also continued her involvement in the performing arts, appearing in musical and film productions over the years. In the Tri-Cities, she helped produce a talent search for three years in the '80s.
"The Tri-Cities embraced me," Bell-Roberts said. "I felt so much love and support, I know I had to give back to the community."
Tragedy struck again in 1993 when her son, McClain Bell, was hit by a sniper's bullet on the right side of the neck -- the same place Bell-Roberts was shot -- while serving as a U.S. Marine guard outside the U.S. Embassy in Moscow during a demonstration against then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
When Bell-Roberts received a call from the White House telling her of her son's injuries, she feared the worst.
"I thought, 'Oh my god, maybe he'll be paralyzed,' " she said. "I could not fathom him being in the same condition as me."
Bell-Roberts helped her son recover from his injuries, and he avoided the same kind of lifelong problems his mother endured.
She hopes her segment with Harvey will send the same kind of message she has taught her kids.
"I know as a role model, I want my children, and anybody else watching me, to know you can do what you want to do as long as you try," she said.
Bell-Roberts enjoyed traveling to Chicago for Harvey's show from her home in Murietta, Calif., east of Los Angeles.
Bell-Roberts said her story won't end with the TV appearance. She is also working on a novel based on her life called Walking on Thin Ice.
Her daughter, LyNea Bell, who works for a Los Angeles talent agency, helped get the word about her mother to Harvey's staff. She called Bell-Roberts the "epitome of a hero."
"It was heartfelt for me," LyNea Bell said of going on the show. "I've been telling her she's my hero for a number of years. It was great to share that with everybody else."
Gibson, now a resident of Renton, will be watching.
"I think a lot of people will be inspired by the story," she said. "It's very inspirational to see her get her moment."