Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

January 30, 2013

She doesn’t look disabled, but appearances can be deceiving

I’m a female U.S. Army Veteran with Lupus. I would like to spread the word of Lupus. Through worldly knowledge about the disease, there will be hopefully be less discrimination in today’s society and further research leading to cures.

I’m young and seemingly healthy looking, but I’m not exactly healthy. I have Lupus, and my health changes as drastically as an elevator changes floors. I’m healthy; I’m sick. I have my ups and downs. My doctors know it, and I know it.

Sometimes I can walk for what seems like miles. Sometimes I can stand for hours on end. Then, there are the days where I can barely get out of bed, and if I do have to walk, the pain becomes so severe, my heart palpitates unmercifully, and I struggle to get a gasp of air.

For that reason, my doctors used their best discretion. I required a disability-parking placard. I didn’t want it I needed it. Without hesitation, the Motor Vehicle Administration handed me a special disability license plate. The MVA noticed that not only was I a 100 percent disabled veteran. I also had my doctor write that I have lupus and the symptoms that the disease created.

All too often when I park in the handicapped spot, I am greeted by nasty glares from people. I’ve had some individuals have the audacity to approach me and state, “You’re too young to be handicapped. You can’t park there.” Or they’ve had the nerve to say, “You don’t look disabled.”

I should have a T-shirt a post-it sticker that reads, “Just because I am disabled doesn’t mean that you have to see my injury. I have a hidden disease called Lupus. Don’t judge me prematurely!”

Sometimes, I turn my head in embarrassment if I get the stares, but once somebody confronts me, although initially I feel hurt, I decide that it is best to tell my accuser about my disease. “I have Lupus, a rheumatological disease”.

Often the accuser will pause, look a bit embarrassed, scratch his or her head, and state, “I’m sorry, but I don’t know what Lupus is.” Then, I try my best to explain the illness.

After my explanation, the accuser has always been very apologetic. “Oh, I’m so sorry. I wished I had known! I never would have judged you.”

If you have Lupus or know somebody else with the disease, please spread the word so that society will become more knowledgeable. Through the empowerment of knowledge, there will be more of a chance of research leading to cures!

 Kathleen Wood

Annapolis

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