MS Awareness Month: MS and The Myth of Disability

Cathy Health Guide
  • About a month ago I was on the telephone speaking with a friend.  After I hung up I felt a strange pit in my stomach. I couldn’t figure out why I felt this way.  I tried to replay our conversation over and over again in my mind, sort of pressing the rewind button of a tape recorder in my head. Then it hit me.  We had discussed women we knew who’d worked full-time while raising their children.  We even went so far as to name some of the women we knew in common. I realized my name was never mentioned.  Not even by me.  Why hadn’t I mentioned my name? I was angry with myself! 

     

    I always felt strongly that stay-at-home moms did work a full-time job, yet I also knew that society didn’t always recognize that.  I’ve found that the typical mindset of people is this: Women who didn’t work “regular” nine to five jobs outside of the home while childrearing did not work a “real” full-time job.  On top of that, I knew that living with MS while being a wife and mother is more than a full time job.  It’s grocery shopping, cooking meals, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, volunteering at your child’s school, initiating and organizing after school programs, working on fundraisers for the PTA, arranging play dates, driving to and from every activity – and so on and so forth.  What does this mean?  That while I battled my fatigue, numbness, weakness and pain I also worked a full time job at home. 

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    I always wanted to thank Gloria Steinem and all of the women (and men) of The Feminist Movement who fought my battles for me back in the 60s and 70s (this movement actually dates back to the 18th Century with women’s suffrage, and was captured in Virginia Woolf’s book A Room of One’s Own).  I greatly admired these women and men for what they fought for – equal pay and equal rights (among other things) for women – and always wished I were old enough to take part in their shared voices.  Today, the battle continues for equal rights for women on a smaller scale.  It also continues for people with disabilities, with laws being passed such as The American with Disabilities Act  and The Affordable Care Act (the discussion of these new laws and their implications can be a separate article).  Yet despite these victories, there is still a need to change society’s view of people with disabilities, that we are equal in every way, both at home and in the workplace.  You can change laws but you can’t always change minds.  During March MS Awareness Month, I suggest we help spread the word that we, the people with MS, deserve to be viewed as equal among men and women, in every single way.

     

    “Give thanks for what you are now, and keep fighting for what you want to be tomorrow.” ~Fernanda Miramontes-Landeros

     

    Those of us with MS need to feel we are contributing to society in the same way we did before we were diagnosed. We need to feel a sense of pride.  We don’t want to be on the sidelines watching life pass us by simply because we have a chronic disease.  We don’t ever want to be pitied.  We don’t want to be ignored by others because we have MS.  I speak for myself, and perhaps for many others, when I say I want others to understand how difficult each day can be for me. But I also want to educate them about what MS is, how it affects me, and how I can still be a vital and important member of society by what I am able to give to others.  I may walk slower, my body may be numb, my immune system is faulty and I tire easily.  Yet, despite all of this, I am important.  I contribute.  I matter.  We all do.

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    In the spirit of MS Awareness Month, let’s educate others not only about MS, but also let others know we can still stand on our own two feet and make a difference in the world.  Let’s teach others to respect those who are disabled, and let them know that even though our physical selves cannot do what they used to, we have so much else to offer. 

     

    The next time I have a conversation with someone and we discuss women who work, I will boldly and proudly speak up and add myself to the list.  

     

    We are all important.  We all matter.  We are all special.   

Published On: March 14, 2012