It’s a rainy Sunday morning. My family and I had a nice late breakfast at a local retro diner. You know the one – located in an old time silver trailer, with the jukebox, daily specials written on whiteboards, and pancakes as big as dinner plates. It was a good, and filling breakfast.

Afterward, we decided to do a little grocery shopping at a local place I love. So, we headed over. We pulled into a disabled parking spot, with my pass in the window, and headed inside.

We gathered up apricots, peaches, spring onions, makings for chili and other things for the week ahead. This week is “treatment week” as we call it around here. I go in on Tuesday, and there’s no telling how I will feel in the days that follow. I’m on a new treatment now, as the last one just stopped working. I’m grateful to have another option, but if last time was any indication, I won’t feel so hot this week. So, we planned ahead and shopped.

We got to the checkout counter, swarming with people and their purchases. I started to feel a little faint, and warm. I know what that means. So, I grabbed the keys, and my son and I headed for the car. I was grateful we parked where we did (thanks to my pass) so I could quickly get to the car and sit down.

As we approached the car, I saw a note under the windshield. I was pretty sure someone had hit us, scratched the car, or something else, but happy that at least they had left a note. Then I read the note:

Note left on my car

“We noticed that the people getting out of your car did not seam (seem) handicapped. It is not nice to miss use (misuse) the handicap parking. Leave it for someone that really needs it.”

Huh. Okay.

I had heard of things like this, but had never been on the receiving end of it. It stung, I won’t pretend it didn’t. Maybe because I am VERY wary of using my pass, and most often times I don’t. I am keenly aware and compassionate toward others who have a pass, so if it’s a good day for me, I often don’t use it. Even though I am fully in my rights to do so. Today I was glad I did.

Here’s what this person (persons?) didn’t know, or think to ask about:

You can’t tell by looking at me that I have stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and all the weird health things that means for me. (And that it scares me.)
You don’t know that sometimes out of nowhere I feel like I’m going to pass out.
You don’t know that I sometimes get winded for no good reason.
You don’t know that on the days I could use the scooter in the store, I often don’t, as I don’t want people to worry about me. And there always seems to be someone who needs it more than me.
You don’t know that I sometimes use my time in the store to get some exercise, because I’ve been in the house throwing up from chemo. (It rains a lot here, and the store is warm and dry.)
You don’t know that I get unexplained fevers at night called “tumor fevers” which wipe me out for days.
My oncologist gave me that pass, as she thought I needed it.

You don’t know, because you didn’t ask.

So, do me a favor friends, educate the people you know about these parking passes. Disability is not always something you can see. Ask a question, and never assume.