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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

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