I work with an amazing woman. The kind of person that makes me feel inadequate as a human being.
Dianne’s not one of those people with ample skills in spelling AND math.
She’s not physically intimidating; she stands about 5-feet tall in heels and weighs all of about 100 pounds.
She wears two hearing aids and has an obvious scar from her nose to her upper lip. There’s a permanent tear in her right eye, which doesn’t blink in sync with the left.
Dianne has a disease that I don’t know much about, and I’ve been around a lot of diseases (I’m not talking about college). She has vasculitis. I still don’t know much about it. Check it out at the Vasculitis Foundation. I know it’s an auto-immune disorder, which means there’s no cure and she’s on steroids from time to time, which is enough to make some people, literally, want to kill or be killed. I know she’s had many surgeries — some that flayed her chest like a catfish and some that peeled down her face and exposed her sinuses. And she’s had 143 radiological scans — her body should be glowing.
But Dianne is amazing for what she doesn’t have. She’s lacking an ounce of self pity, self doubt or discouragement.
And I have absolutely no idea how she keeps them away.
Dianne runs communications for a cancer center and I interact with her in sort of a consultant capacity. I’ve asked her to do the impossible before, on deadline, and she did. She regularly does. She goes to the mat for patients in the center and the giants of research stand on her shoulders to tell the world about their advances. She’s also instrumental in a national cancer communications group.
She recently asked if I would work with the Vasculitis Foundation, provide some media consultation for their strategic meeting. It would only take a couple of conference calls.
I was glad to.
Then she emailed. “You know those phone calls? How would you like to come to Chicago, instead?”
There’s no way I’m going to turn Dianne down. She was president of this organization and helped shape it into its current form by bringing together several small factions. The trip falls across my wedding anniversary, so I’m going to have to cut it short, but I can’t say no to someone who so easily says yes in such meaningful ways to so many people.
Dianne took me to lunch the other day to discuss the personalities of the players involved with the meeting. She’s a big foodie, bigger than I am, and we were at a local landmark with a great menu, a place that offers cooking classes. I told her about my recent celiac diagnosis and how bummed I was that I couldn’t eat what I wanted.
She immediately empathized. It must be horrible, she said.
Then she said, with her trademark sardonic wit, “welcome to the autoimmune disorders club!”
Dianne’s personal philosophy, which she’s shared with other people who have chronic diseases: “thank goodness you have it now, because our medical options are a whole lot better than they use to be.”
She defies apathy, refuses deference. Tenacity is her calling card. Don’t feel sorry for her, she doesn’t have the time. She’s not in denial, she simply doesn’t care to brood about what might be.
I start to feel a little ashamed of myself when I’m around her and worrying about my job or finances, whether or not I’m happy. I’ll never be as brave or defiant as Dianne. But some of her energy invariably spills over, and I’m not about to brush it off.