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Diversity Case Study
Kalista is a 46-year old woman of German-Irish decent who identifies with the diverse groups of upper–middle-class wives, mothers, grandmothers, students, career changers, health care providers, Catholics, volunteers, and cancer survivors. People who do not know Kalista may place her in the diverse groups of tattoo wearers, underachievers, overweight individuals, old hippies, or biker chicks.
Kalista was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she was 39 years old, and her thyroid gland was removed as a result. This operation successfully removed the cancer from her system. Afterwards, however, she had a large scar at the base of her neck. She also would always be in a chronic state of hypothyroidism, which causes thinning hair, obesity, fatigue, and water retention.
Kalista’s experience with cancer transformed her life. Rather than remaining a victim of cancer, she chose to see it as a blessing. She felt that the experience helped her find renewed gratitude for the life she has and a sense of obligation to help others who have cancer. She had a tattoo of a growing, flowering vine placed over her scar; made the decision to change her career from a successful real estate agent to an oncology nurse; and is currently working part time as a hospital orderly while going to school to earn her bachelor’s degree in nursing. Knowing the emotional toll that cancer had on her husband and her three children, she also spends 10 hours a month working with families of cancer patients in a support group sponsored by her church.
Kalista is aware, though, that her weight; short, thinning hair; occasional fatigue; loose-fitting clothes (worn to accommodate frequent water weight gain); and tattoo are interpreted by many as indicative of a person who is an underachiever, overeater, and possibly counter-culture in lifestyle. At times, when she looks in the mirror and is so tired because of the hypothyroidism, she has a hard time not agreeing with those assumptions. She suspects, in fact, that these judgments have cost her a few internships and employment opportunities. Although the biases can be emotionally draining, Kalista chooses to focus on interacting with people who can see beyond the stereotypes.
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