[IP] Life's Fairness and Standing In Line
Dear List Members,
I rarely pipe in with opinions on this list because we each have different
views on such topics. I read the debate about privileges, especially
getting forwarded to the beginning of the line in certain situations.
It is a shame that a lot of us as individuals with diabetes, feel that we
have superior rights than any other person. We do not. We have the SAME
rights as others....be glad and proud of this fact because many before us
and still today have fought very hard for such rights.
I was diagnosed in 1982 at the age of five. At that time they told my
parents to "make the best" of it and that they "shouldn't expect a lot from
me because of the physical ramifications of the disease.
When I registered for high school, I was told that the school district would
be happy to send a home tutor to my house so that I wouldn't become
uncomfortable around the "regular" students in means of testing and being
"attached" to a medical device. I said NO, that I was as "regular" as the
rest of the students. Not only did I attend high school, I graduated in two
and a half years by proficiency out of several classes due to exceptional
academic study. I was the valedictorian of my high school class. After
graduation, many people, including family members asked if I was going to
just work "a little bit" or take full disability all together. I said NO.
I was granted three full scholarships and I was damn well going to use them.
I graduated three years later with high honors with TWO Bachelors
degrees...one in Animal Science and another in Reproductive Biology from a
Two months after graduating, I packed my belongings and flew to Milan, Italy
to start as a freshman in the University of Milan School of Veterinary
Medicine. I graduated four years later with honors and also a Masters
degree in Reproductive Endocrinology and Biotechnology. I was again, at the
top of my class and presented with the privilege of speaking at our
graduation ceremony. Two days before the ceremony I fractured my Navicular
bone in my right ankle (also known as Charcot Joint in people with
diabetes). I was due for surgery but begged the physicians to at least
allow me to participate in graduation. They agreed.
Upon the line up for the ceremony, the dean of the Veterinary school stopped
and congratulated me for my accomplishments. Not because I was a woman or
an American, not because I have diabetes, not because I had some slight
complications and not because I was color blind or had a current injury. An
escort for the ceremony stopped and asked if I wanted to be seated first at
the beginning of the ceremony. I said NO, that I was privileged to stand in
the line with all the other soon to be veterinarians in alphabetical order.
The dean turned around from a conversation he was having with the president
of the university and smiled. He walked over and said "And still you rise".
I had not the slightest as what he meant. After I graduated I hobbled
after the dean and asked him what he meant by his comment. He said "Are you
familiar with Maya Angelou's poem 'Still I Rise'? I nodded in agreement
that I did. He then said "As a student you were exceptional, but as an
individual faced with challenges that some people would wither to, curl up
and die in defeat, or take advantage of the disease and use it as an excuse
not to prevail, you rose above the disease and and demanded acceptance. So,
as a person you are extraordinary."
Today, I am a proud veterinarian that has a large animal practice
specializing in Reproductive Medicine. I also am an adjunct professor at a
veterinary school. I am "lucky" to have been given the opportunity to stand
smack dab in the middle of the line in many avenues of my life.
I read the poem "Still I Rise" the other day and finally after a few years
since my graduation, I understand what he meant.
We as people with diabetes are NOT entitled to anything but what every
individual in this country is entitled to. Having diabetes is not an
instant claim to privileges. Each one of us should be proud and lucky to be
among the "regular" population, to be accepted in the work force, to be
validated as worthy individuals who CAN have a family, who CAN hold down
gainful avenues in life and who CAN hold their own and NOT let this damn
disease characterize us as weak. Be PROUD to stand in the line and NOT be
treated as different and rushed to the front of the line. Be PROUD to be
treated as an individual, not a helpless person with diabetes that needs
I have had diabetes for 22 years, pumping for 20 years. I have had all the
ups and downs that anyone with diabetes has endured. Testing, watching your
dietary intake, exercising and monitoring insulin does NOT afford you a
lifetime pass. For each one of us that thinks life has been unduly unfair
to us, remember that life is NOT fair, every one has a burden to bear. As
my father used to say "No one dies a virgin....Life screws us all."
Life is not fair to some extent to all of us. But I am lucky and grateful
that in life's unfairness, I can actually be treated as just another
somebody. Not special because I have a disease. I'm special because I have
an exceptional prowess at hockey and bocce ball. Special because as a
veterinarian I will go beyond the call of duty without taking expense and
time in consideration when I care for someone's pet that may not have
received that care due to the financial state of it's owner. I am special
because I feel loved.
There are cases when individuals need to be taken to the front of the line
or afforded certain accommodations, that we can not question this at all.
But be glad that most of us as individuals with this disease can stand in
line. Remember those that cannot.
So, as some of the people with diabetes may rush to the front of the line, I
will smile and say no thank you, I would like to stand here with the
others...and Still I Will Rise.
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