From D.I.V.A. to Disabled
Even before her multiple sclerosis diagnosis, retired Harlem Assistant Principal Dr. Michelle King-Huger (Dr. Michelle) referred to herself as a D.I.V.A. – “A Determined Individual with a Victorious Attitude.” In her inspirational and spiritual diary From D.I.V.A to Disabled: A Determined Individual with a Victorious Attitude (Christian Faith Publishing), Dr. Michelle celebrates being a D.I.V.A. – a person whose life has been curtailed by a chronic illness disability that has changed her life forever, yet has overcome obstacles. For her, D.I.V.A. encompasses all ages, races, rich or poor, and any gender who are living with a life-changing, debilitating illness: multiple sclerosis, cancer, strokes, heart attacks, lupus, diabetes, chronic arthritis, accidents and other health care crises.
Prior to the multiple sclerosis diagnosis, Dr. Michelle led an active career and personal life. She spent decades in the New York City public school system and rose to positions as administrator and assistant principal at several Harlem schools including PS 192 and PS 125 (Ralph Bunche). She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education, and two Master of Science degrees in education and administration from CCNY. Also, she received a Doctoral degree as an Education Specialist in Administration Leadership from Walden University. Dr. Michelle made a six-figure salary; traveled frequently; married Anthony Jerome Huger, owner of a successful car wash and detail business in New Jersey; raised their son Jerome W.E. Huger; attended church and drove luxury cars like Jaguars and Mercedes-Benz.
Then, in 2007, life began to crumble. She lost her husband to a heart ailment. By 2011, her continuing health crisis was diagnosed as progressive multiple sclerosis. She evolved from a cane to a walker, to a wheelchair and now lives in North Carolina with a primary caregiver being her loving mother, retired educator Willie Mae King.
Prayer is an important part of Dr. Michelle’s life. “My doctors say I’m a prayerful person. And I know it has an important part and role in my health care,” she explains. “Even though you pray, you must deal with the action. For me, the action is therapy and exercise. The action must be equalized with a positive force.”
Dr. Michelle is an advocate of retaining compassionate doctors. She writes to make sure that when you see your doctor you do not leave the office feeling more upset or discouraged than when you arrived. That kind words of compassion about what you are going through means a lot.
In addition, she recommends that people with disabilities share feelings and listen to others. It could be family, health care workers or a discussion group. She points out that just by listening to somebody you’ll see that everyone has a story to tell and it’s important.
As the daughter of acclaimed theater producer Woodie King, she knows about creative divas. Growing up, family friends included folks like Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. “I was moved by my daughter’s inspirational and spiritual book. It redefines the word D.I.V.A. It gives D.I.V.A. a new aspirational strength,” says Woodie King. “From D.I.V.A. to Disabled helps in guiding anyone with a health disability from feeling alone. It is a realization that so many others are there with you and willing to help.”
In From D.I.V.A. to Disabled: A Determined Individual with a Victorious Attitude, she urges people with disabilities to understand their life is in transformation. “I am a survivor and I want you to become a survivor. I am stronger and wiser and more aware of the suffering of others,” stresses Dr. Michelle, who holds the copyright to the acronym D.I.V.A. It encompasses men also. “People who are dealing with disabilities are not alone. I have accepted the fact that I am a new member of this exclusive club where membership is free.”