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Dad, Mom, and baby Meghan

Dad, Mom, and baby Meghan

Meghan through the years

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10 Things Every Child with Autism Wishes you knew

Thursday, February 11, 2010

On a side note

When I was undergoing cancer treatments and the subsequent surgeries to reconstruct what I lost to cancer, I was fired. They reasoned that my substitute could do a better job than I because he was not ill. Apparently a lot of people with cancer are fired; we are substandard employees because we cannot work as long or as hard as we used to.

While undergoing treatment and surgery, cancer patients are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act ( a new addendum to the law makes what my company did harder to do). I decided I would talk to someone at the Attorney General's office about this, as I felt my workplace violated the ADA. I left numerous messages, I did not hear back. I had to request the help of a federal senator to get the ATT Generals office to answer my phone calls. I wrote a very long and impassioned letter to him and Senator Mc Cain sent a letter to and called the Attorney Generals office instructing them to call me and set up an appointment. They called that day.

During my first appointment I spoke to a civil rights lawyer who told me, yes my workplace broke a law, but that most places get away with breaking ADA laws because no one reports them or holds them accountable. It is not until they get caught doing something wrong that they actually follow the letter of the law. Being caught usually means being sued. The lawyer called in my ex co-workers and bosses and got their side of the story. After they were through, I was called back to hear a summary of what was said.

These people, some I had worked with for 17 years, LIED, they had stories about my lack of responsibility, my frequent calls in sick, and they felt justified in doing what they did "For the good of the business". "It was not personal, they were not doing a thing wrong, just protecting their investments"....what? It was personal to me! I could scarcely believe my ears. I listened to the machinations of my bosses in disbelief, sitting there in shocked silence, my mouth agape. The lawyer told me most people lie to get away with something…did I really expect them to tell the truth? I had told the complete truth, keeping careful records (I was a list maker, having to write everything down to remember it later because I was cognitively impaired by chemotherapy, a condition colloquially called chemo brain) so yes; I expected them to be truthful. Was I na├»ve, yes?

It was determined that I could take them to court, but the attorney cautioned me it would get ugly, and she felt that the stress would be very bad for me. I had time to decide what to do, and I did some soul searching, but my decision was made for me when the health club closed down for good months later, coincidentally just days before my claim had expired. Karma?

What struck me most in this entire ordeal was the one statement the lawyer made "These people get away with this because no one will do anything to stop them". Be it not installing a wheelchair ramp, or not allowing someone to work half days because they have cancer, not allowing someone with diabetes snack breaks. Believe me, the post chemotherapy-post surgery part of cancer recovery is not an ideal time to take on unscrupulous people. There were days that all I could manage was a shower, spending endless days sleeping while my body healed, joking that I felt like I was half dead and was slowly coming back to life. (not everyone has that level of fatigue with cancer treatment) I saw more TV those few months than I had in years.

So why am I even talking about this? Why? Because once again the ADA is being completely ignored while state governments decide to cut budgets by cutting aid and services to their citizens with disabilities. I have not forgotten the pain it caused me to be dismissed so rudely, not to mention the financial losses. It was demoralizing. I do not want that to happen to anyone else.

So what, right? Who cares, as long as taxes do not go up…(insert sarcasm) When you hear “disabled person” do you think of someone like my daughters, or your elderly neighbor who is using a wheelchair to get around? Not contributing members of society, right? Isn’t that what I hear detestable talk show hosts say about people like my daughters? Who should care about them? I DO

Many folks believe that being disabled pertains to people born with genetic disabilities, or birth injuries. However, there are millions of disabled Americans, people who were hurt in accidents, like my cousin Danny, who was made a quadriplegic by a drunk driver when he was 18. Or cancer patients who were once robust and healthy, now weakened from radiation or chemo tearing down their bodies, all done to save their lives. Maybe your wife had a stroke while on birth control pills? Or your husband or father had a heart attack at age 45 and suffered hypoxia to his brain? Maybe you are someone with severe arthritis? All disabilities and all covered under ADA.

I think it is common for a society to dismiss those who they feel are less than ourselves, I do believe that how we treat people who need the most help defines us as a society. In my heart and mind, America is currently getting a D-.

I am hearing about the wealthiest among US citizens sending billions to offshore accounts to save their money from additional taxation. The government WILL NOT take their money, they worked hard for that by golly, no way is it going to be used for anything other than that new jet, a villa in France, or to buy an island! They have within their power to help America recover from this recession, but they choose to help save themselves instead.

We have also watched the news and heard of a company (s) who gave billions to employees as bonuses. That was our money folks, ours and our children’s and our children’s children.

I admit, I am getting a headache, I sit at a desk with Gandhi's quote affixed above my head; "Be the change you wish to see in the world". I do what I can as an average citizen, I call our state and federal governments, write emails, sign petitions, and attend rallies when I can. Does it help? Maybe if 100 friends did it as well, and 100 of their friends and so on. Can I sleep at night if I do nothing? NO, I am driven to stand up for what I believe in.

I urge you to go to www.defendingourfreedom2010.blogspot.com . Read my blog post after this one, can you do anything to help stop this trend?

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