Sunday, 2 February 2014

I am not my disability.

On Friday, one of the physio assistants called me 'a cf'. Not a 'cf-er' (which I've heard a plethora of times), a cf. She looked at me standing in the doorway, turned to her colleague and said "we have a cf at the door."

Argh! How many times does it have to be said? "I AM NOT MY DISEASE!!"

(No, I didn't say anything to her because I have to still see this person three times a week and rely on her for stuff like 'getting my weights' and 'cleaning the room.' Let's save the 'people being uncomfortable speaking up to professionals on whom they rely' conversation for later.)

I know that she probably didn't mean to dehumanize me with the comment. She was probably just commenting on the fact that I have CF which meant that she needed to figure out which side of the room I should be on and whether or not she will have to clean that side before I enter the room. However, at that moment, being called 'a cf' reduced my identity and person-hood to my disease. Nothing else about me mattered.  

I know there are people out there who use the word 'cystic' or 'cf-er' to describe themselves in certain situations (note the 'er' attached to the 'cf', if nothing else, at least there is a 'er' to attach the disease too). That is a personal decision and one that each person get to decide. Not you. You do not have the right to define me by my disease. I am a person first, a disability last. I do not like being referred to as my disease any more than you would enjoy being called a 'acner' or 'dandruffer'.

When we call each other by a medical label, we reduce that person to their disease. We are saying that we see that person as first having a disease or illness and second as being a person. We reduce each other to a condition on which we then use to base all of our future interactions. Calling someone 'a cf' or 'epileptic' or 'autistic', reduces that person to one characteristic about their lives over which they had no control. Why would anyone have the nerve to assume that the other person wants to be defined by a medical diagnosis?

Look, I understand that we, as humans, are lazy when we talk and it is faster to say 'cf-er' or 'disabled person' over 'person with cf' or 'person with a disability' therefore the former seems to be the go-to option. But when doing so makes a person feel dehumanized and as though they are being reduced to their disease, we have to get our butts in gear and start treating and calling each other people first and foremost.

Language is important. Let's be more aware of how we use it. 


Anonymous said...

Well said!

Amy Watson said...

Preach it sister!!

Dave VanSlyke said...

I'm stunned that someone in the health care field would speak this way. Perhaps they didn't think you would hear, but that wouldn't excuse it. You are DEFINITELY NOT your disease! You are a dynamo - go get 'em!

Brad Post said...

It's terrible that you had to be judged as someone different by a person in the medical field. That nurse should've known better. I know she didn't mean any harm with that, but she should have totally re-thought her words before she spoke. Anyway, here's to never encountering someone like that again. All the best to you!

Brad Post @ Jan Dils

Jason Hayes said...

That’s right! No one has the right to define you, or any person based on their illness for that matter. I’m sorry that you have to experience that kind of treatment from other people, who didn’t even understand what you’re going through. They should consider themselves lucky because they are not in your situation, but if they were to put themselves on your shoe, they will surely realize how unfair they’re treating you. Well, don’t think about those people, Alley. Just go on with your business and always think positive as deal with life’s hurdles. Stay strong!

Jason Hayes @ DECORM