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How Telling My Story Taught Me the Meaning of Inclusion

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Amy at the conference.
Amy at the conference.

I just came back from Hawaii and (once the TSA patted down every square inch of my ostomy bags) I had an amazing experience. Sure, I enjoyed the gorgeous sunsets and the crystal blue waters…but I was most honored to take my story, “Gutless & Grateful” to Hawaii as the keynote presentation for the Pacific Rim International Conference on Disability.

I went there expecting to meet strong, empowered health advocates with a story to tell and a message to share — and I definitely did! But I didn’t expect to come away with a whole new appreciation of the word “inclusion” and what it means to me.

What does inclusion mean, anyway?


  1. the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.
Chatting with fellow disability advocates from Manoa University at the Poster Session.
Chatting with fellow disability advocates from Manoa University at the Poster Session.

The Pacific Rim Conference was all about inclusion.

“The Pacific Rim International Conference, considered one of the most “diverse gatherings” in the world, encourages and respects voices from “diverse” perspective across numerous areas, including: voices from persons representing all disability areas; experiences of family members and supporters across all disability and diversity areas; responsiveness to diverse cultural and language differences; evidence of researchers and academics studying diversity and disability; stories of persons providing powerful lessons; examples of program providers, and; action plans to meet human and social needs in a globalized world.”

Me with Charmaine Crockett, the amazing organizer of the event.
Me with Charmaine Crockett, the amazing organizer of the event.

Sharing and Overcoming Adversity

My one-woman musical, “Gutless & Grateful,” empowers others to move forward and sparks a sense of rejuvenation, renewal, and hope. As we enter the new millennium, the world is faced with massive challenges as well as opportunities to solve them. Let’s share dynamic, creative ideas and sustainable solutions which can be adopted in our world.

“More Than Able” Advocates

This conference was filled with extraordinary individuals who were so proud to stand up for their own personal truths. Just like the passionate “ABLE Club” run by the students at Fulton Montgomery Community College, performing my show here introduced me to people who are beautiful inside and out, striving for inclusion. I think “inclusion” might be my new favorite word. The “differences” that make us unique are precisely what bring us together in solidarity.

Together, we’re stronger. All of us.

Amy and a conference attendee.
Amy and a conference attendee.

I was so fortunate to meet so many inspiring people who attended my presentation. It means the world to me that my story can affect others.

That’s why we all need to tell our stories. With every obstacle, stories help us find a new opportunity. Stories saved my life. Sure, I have wounds, scars, and some medical issues that still haven’t been resolved. But if I took away all of the setbacks, hurdles, frustrations and detours, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Telling my story made me feel “included” back into the human race.

Amy performing.
Amy performing.

Let’s help everyone of all abilities, ages, demographics, circumstances and lifestyles reclaim their voices. A simple story can change our lives.
Now it’s your turn…

  • How do we create a community that supports every individual in their own process of healing?
  • How can we reach out to others and what is the benefit for them, as well as for us?
  • What are the effects of stigma? How can we de-stigmatize “detour,” illness, or struggles that many people don’t share?
  • How do we heal when we start sharing?

Together we can make a difference by showing others that we can make things happen for a reason in our lives. With creativity, passion, and that little spark, anything is possible. Stories are unstoppable, and have the power to be something even greater than what we anticipate.

Amy at the conference.
Amy at the conference.

Thank you, Pacific Rim, thank you, Hawaii, and thank you to the amazing Disability and Diversity Advocates who heard my story, shared their stories with me, and have put their whole hearts into creating a compassionate world to live in for all of us, simply by speaking their truth.

That’s what inclusion means to me – speaking your truth and allowing yourself to hear and to be affected by the truths of others.

What does inclusion mean to you?

Learn more about how everyone can be included in life’s detours and participate in #LoveMyDetour here.

 The Mighty is asking the following: How would you describe your disability, disease or mental illness to a child? If you’ve done this before, tell us about that moment and the child’s reaction. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: May 12, 2016
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