The very first day following my release from the hospital, following open heart surgery for a double bypass, as ordered by my doctor, I took my first of three walks around the block of my neighborhood for rehabilitation. It was not to be any big deal, as I was taking several walks around the my floor of the hospital following the surgery.
But evidently, this was a big deal, to a co-worker of mine. This co-worker of mine happened to be driving by me on their way to work, and felt the need to report to my employer that I “looked great”, and “there was no reason why” I should not be back at work. Now, it was not to say that my co-worker did not believe that I actually had heart surgery, but my appearance gave him the impression, that in spite of losing 80% of my strength in less than a week, a very stressed cardiac system, and oh yes, a healing surgically repaired breast bone that would need months to recover, their opinion (not that it was any of their business) was that I was able to work.
I know, it sounds totally ludicrous to expect someone to have a complete recovery from double bypass surgery in just days, and expect full participation in daily activities. And yet, by one jerk actually stirring this pot, put me into a position of having to defend myself to various levels at my employer.
Over the last few weeks, I have had three friends be accused of “faking” their cancers. Yes, “faking” their cancers. My heart surgery situation was not the first time I ran into this ignorant behavior, as when I faced my battle with cancer, I had to deal with this behavior. But as I read the stories posted by my friends, who have endured so much, being forced to publish personal information publicly, just to prove to one asshole, that their cancer was real. It was not bad enough for me to see this happen to one friend, but it happened to another and another.
Well, my friends really do have cancer. In fact, at one point, one of them was given no hope. Now I am just one of a dozen million cancer survivors, but just to protect people who cannot handle even hearing the word cancer, I put on a façade so that I do not make someone feel sad. But it is up to that person to not make an assumption about my wellbeing. I will try to look normal. I will try to act normal. Because, in spite of that not necessarily being in my best interest, that is what matters to certain people.
I am not sure what drives a person to be so mean, as to question the health of another person. Why, what business does someone even have worrying about another person’s health, unless they have been confided in? But many in our society are just plain nosy, and when someone does not understand something, it gets completely dismissed as not being real.
Now, I am not naïve, there is at least some cause to this behavior, because at one point or another, we have witnessed someone actually faking a serious illness, or even just a sinus infection, just to get out of work or school.
There are people who actually do “fake” an illness. And there can be any reason that drives people to do this. And dealing with Munchausen or hypochondria is a real issue as well. There are also people who are just plain lazy and do anything to get out of working.
But for those who are legitimately battling a serious illness or injury, to treat them poorly or make accusations as to the validity of their health, which should only be of the patient’s concern, is unfair. And to those who have faced this type of discrimination or harassment, you are not alone. Sadly, this behavior of individuals treating those of us with disabilities is all to common, whether their reasons be ignorance or just plain malicious. Though I know there will be a need to prove them wrong, no matter what the length (and I have done it several times), you do not need to prove anything. For every jerk out there who says you are faking an illness, there are hundreds out there that not only believe you, but support you as well.