Embracing your Stripes: How the Zebra Became a Symbol for Rare Diseases

Embracing your Stripes: How the Zebra Became a Symbol for Rare Diseases
In 1940, Dr. Theodore Woodward coined a phrase that would become a cornerstone of medical education
- When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras-

Essentially, doctors are taught to look for the more common diseases, rather than jumping to the conclusion that the diagnosis is a rare disease. However, this can lead to many patients with rare or undiagnosed conditions being overlooked or dismissed. Thus, the zebra became a symbol for these rare diseases, a reminder that they do exist, and that we need to advocate for ourselves and others with uncommon conditions.

The idea of the zebra can also be taken beyond the medical world, as we all have unique characteristics or challenges that make us different from others and the truth is we all have these stripes, something that marks us differently from others, physically, mentally or emotionally. Sometimes the stripes are invisible. Sometimes they show through.

Living with a rare disease, chronic illness or invisible disability can present a unique set of challenges. Whether it's a chronic pain condition or a mental health disorder, these struggles can take a toll on both our physical and emotional well-being. However, it's important to recognize that these challenges can also be used as an opportunity to grow and develop our confidence. By learning to navigate and overcome these obstacles, we gain a sense of resilience and self-assurance that can be carried into other aspects of our lives. It's not always easy, but taking the time to acknowledge our struggles and push through them can lead to a stronger, more confident version of ourselves.

The zebra may have started as a symbol of rare diseases, but it has become something more- a symbol of resilience, strength, and individuality. So go ahead, embrace your stripes, and see where they take you.

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