When a Man Asked 'How Dare You Take the Elevator' at the YMCA


I worked for the YMCA for almost 14 years. When you work for the “Y” and wear a “Y” shirt, I guess people expect you to be healthy and fit. I, in fact, did not work in a fitness center or in a pool. I worked as an executive assistant to the CEO. I loved my job. It made me feel valued. That’s the thing with chronic illness — it steals so much from you, including your sense of worth. But working was very rewarding for me, stressful, but rewarding. I had to stop working two years ago. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. I still dream at night that I work. I miss it every day.

During work, I had to park my car in a parking garage across the street from our building. It wasn’t a long walk. But, for me, some days, it seemed like a journey. I would always park in the same spot — second floor (which was the first available floor for permit parking) in the handicap spot right next to the elevator. I received looks everyday for parking in the handicap spot, every day. And I got even worse looks when I would take the elevator down and up for just one floor! I was very aware of the looks and whispering around me. It made me extremely self conscious. But, I had no choice. I needed to conserve my energy for the walk to work and then for my day actually at work.

Many afternoons when work was particularly hard and while taking oral chemo, I actually would go to my car and sleep in my back seat at lunch. You can imagine the looks when I climbed out of my back seat. I can still see the judgmental looks in my head.

One of those days, I was really dragging. I was wondering how I would get myself home that day because I was on zero energy left. One man had the nerve to zap the little will I had left. He looked at me while I was on the elevator and said to me,

“How dare you take the elevator for one floor?! You work for the Y — you should be exercising! That’s being lazy!”

I held back the tears, smiled and said, “I have lung disease,” as I got off the elevator.

The tears flowed. The man was speechless. I wanted to say so much more. Something mean. How dare he question me. Why was he on the elevator and not walking the stairs? I thought of so many things to say after, but of course it was too late.

In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t yell. I wish I would have used it as a way to raise awareness about my disease. But I did what I could do — what I had the strength to do. The only thing I could do was speak softly and hold back tears.

For all of us fighting, keep fighting, however you can. There is no right or wrong way to fight.

I know it gets hard. I would love for just one day to not have to fight. Let someone else fight for me today. But these are not the cards we were dealt. Just keep fighting the best you can. Please. Just don’t ever give up.

Follow this journey on Tubie or Not Tubie

The Mighty is asking the following: Share a conversation you’ve had that changed the way you think about disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Uncategorized Disorders

Pills on a person's palm

To the Person Who Judges Me for the Medications I Take

To the person who judges me for the medication I take, I see you. I see you looking at me, watching and judging me for digging to the bottom of my bag and pulling out a bright orange bottle with a white cap on it. “But he doesn’t look sick,” you think to yourself. The [...]
karina sturm at airport

When a Man at the Airport Noticed How Much Pain I Was In

Today at the airport, after a very exhausting week full of doctors appointments and painful diagnostic testing, I was standing in line for boarding and just wanted this flight to be over. I was in pain, very weak and my stomach has been bothering me for weeks. Since I wasn’t able to eat anything and [...]
Lauren's children arm in arm on the beach

How My Daughter Helped Me Through the 'Dark Days' With My Son's Illness

Lauren’s daughter and son. My daughter came into this world three years after my son was born. This was about 15 months after he developed the first of what would be a series of health declines in the years to come. (Having spent 15 years searching for answers, my son was finally diagnosed in late [...]
A very close view of marinara sauce illuminated with window light.

The Marinara Mishap: A Tribute to Dads of Medically Complex Children

In anticipation of Father’s Day, I bring you a tale of fatherhood. In the summer of 2014, I was in such a haze. Our son, L, was just over a year old, and we had recently been able to get rid of his central line, so things were great, right? Right. Everything was fine. L was line-free, [...]