CDC Ambassador Claire Sachs is a chronic disease patient and advocate. She has spent her life advocating for herself and others, undoubtedly having an impact on hundreds of patients and their families. While Claire’s commitment to advocacy is clear and unwavering, it wasn’t always that way. Read below to find out how Claire became an advocate for herself and others.
- Why did you first become involved in advocacy work?
For the first 40 years of my life, I just wanted to do what I had to do and nothing more. I had a doctor ask if I could speak to a few medical students about my experience and my condition. The “few” ended up being 200 medical students and it was basically a patient interview. It was their first exposure to a patient in their entire medical career.
I could see the impact I had on these medical students and I thought, “If I can have an impact on people who aren’t like me, what kind of impact can I have with people who are like me?”
- When did you first begin experiencing chronic disease symptoms and how did you feel after receiving your initial diagnosis?
As a baby, I got meningitis. They let me out of a hospital in time for my sixth birthday. A sick kid isn’t really grown up enough to know what’s going on – they read the adults in the room.
However, my diabetes diagnosis was different. I was a teenager with vast medical knowledge of my own body. I had symptoms for a year and a half and told my doctor I was drinking 20 glasses of water a day. I was too tired to go to school and finally was able to take a blood test. I was thin and 14 years old and immediately gained weight because of insulin.
- What inspires you?
As far as advocacy is concerned, my goal is to help people avoid the same mistakes that I’ve made. The everyday things inspire me. Patients don’t understand how powerful they are.
- What is one piece of advice you would offer to others who are battling a chronic disease?
What you are and who you are and your experiences – they’re just as valuable as everyone else’s. What you have to say is valid. You have just as much to contribute to the conversation about your care as everyone else – often more than everyone.
- How do you engage with a support system/network? Is it important? If so, why?
My support system does not include many chronic patients, and that’s okay. It’s people who know me well, including those who I grew up with. I have great relationships with my providers – it’s easy to work with them and they’re responsive, so when I do need something from them, I usually get a response quickly.