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Bri Sambo: Disabling the Label

Bri Sambo, a Sr Program Manager in Diversity Sourcing at T-Mobile, was 31 years old when she learned she had debilitating rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

She’d been a swimmer and softball player in high school, rowed crew in college, and she had started running marathons a few years earlier. For the entirety of her young life, Bri had been an athlete. But now, suddenly, she was walking with a cane and a handicap sign hung from her rear-view-mirror.

“I barely recognized myself,” Bri recalls.

It was about that time Bri says she made two decisions that would turn out to be life changing.

First, she made the conscious decision to become her own best healthcare advocate.

“I did my homework,” Bri said.

Digging into the details of the diagnosis, she learned she had an auto-immune disease in which her own body was attacking healthy joint tissue. She learned RA is not only incredibly painful but often debilitating. And she learned that there is no cure.

“My emotions ranged from hopelessness to relief to grief again.”

Bri met with rheumatologists, naturopaths, physical therapists, orthopedic doctors, a sports medicine doctor and an acupuncturist. She put together a team she knew aligned with her views and needs. They helped her understand the disease and the treatments. And, as a team, they set out on a path.

Second, she made the pivotal decision to join T-Mobile.

“I couldn’t have known this company would be such a crucial ally in the fight for my best life,” she remembers. “But that’s exactly what happened.”

When Bri joined T-Mobile, she immediately signed-up with several Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) networks and jumped in to all things D&I — especially the Access for Disabilities Network (ADN).

“The camaraderie of the ADN network is genuine,” she said. “And the members really take its mission to ‘Disable the Label’ to heart.”

Bri says she’s met incredible people all touched by disability and has volunteered alongside them as they work to make T-Mobile an even better workplace for people with disabilities. The ADN’s mission to ‘Disable the Label’ is about not being labeled or defined by our disabilities. The goal here is to create a space where we can bring our full selves to work and perform to the very best of our abilities in a supportive workplace.

“Today, I’m deeply thankful for the support of my healthcare team, the ADN community and T-Mobile,” Bri said. “I feel mentally and physically strong.”

In fact, she recently started lifting weights with a strength coach, and the strength she’s gained around her joints has even triggered periods of remission. Last year she added a new sport to her resume when she qualified for nationals at her first powerlifting competition.

“Which just goes to show that — with enough perseverance and support — every one of us can achieve great things and live our best life!”