Being a “Professional Patient”

hospital corridor

Chronic illness is a disability, and many other disabilities come with whole suites of medical problems. Many people with disabilities spend countless hours visiting doctors, enduring medical procedures, lying in hospital beds, and feeling like they live in the waiting room.

Yet there is a certain kind of dignity to be found in this unfortunate situation. People with extensive medical issues find consolation in the fact that they are taking charge of their health. They are doing the important work of caring for their bodies.

Last fall, I came across this article by Chanel White, who was forced to leave her job due to complications from systemic scleroderma and several other conditions. She says she felt useless when she came to the “Occupation” question on medical forms and no longer had an answer she found satisfactory. A bolt of inspiration came to her one day, and she began to think of herself as a “Professional Patient.”

“This position,” she realized, “was one of great value and importance to not only myself, but to the people who surrounded me — I was contributing to society after all.” Chanel became aware that taking care of herself for her own sake and that of her loved ones was work that had value.

Managing health problems is part of being responsible for oneself. This ties into one of our core values here at DAWNcil: the idea that in order to be helped most effectively, people must first help themselves and take ownership of their lives. Confronting medical problems head-on is critical to that endeavor.

We can all find solace in the knowledge that, no matter our circumstances, each of us is a valued member of society. Everyone can make a contribution to their community, even if it’s just by going to the doctor.

Comments are closed