Tag Archives: service dog

Rare Disease Advocacy

Over the course of my journey with rare and complex diseases, there have been many moments of hopelessness. When you’re at the end of the road, when you’ve outlasted all the options- what do you do next? Where do you go on this shaky ground of fear and desperation? How do you take a step when all you’re waiting for is the other shoe to drop?

Because there isn’t any other option. There isn’t anything else. I’ve been asked a million times: how do you do it? You do it because you don’t have a choice. I wish to hell that on the impossible days I could just say “hey! It’s too much! I can’t handle it!”- but that’s not how it works. You go forward because it’s all you can do.

As one of my favorite quotes goes: “Some things don’t require courage. They just need to be done.”

And once you’ve moved on from the quagmire of non-options, you figure out what you can do. You adapt. You glory in the tiny victories, and in the inconsequential pieces of our lives that most take for granted. Your “normal” changes, and you learn to live despite that. Or perhaps because of it.

I attended the Global Genes Rare Patient Adovacy Summit. My first year attending the full conference. I was honored to speak on a panel on young adult advocacy, and something that I feel very strongly about. I also got to listen  to sessions run by amazing activists and awesome people, who educate and advocate and want to empower others to do the same.

I was astounded by the courage and resiliency found in the people who fight tirelessly for medications and legislation and quality of life, despite the fact that for many, modern medicine will not move fast enough. The changes they put into effect probably won’t benefit them, trials and medications they were crucial to the success of may not be their miracle. They are not necessarily fighting for themselves or their family members- they are fighting for the next family. The next teenager diagnosed with an incurable disease. The next parent who has to hear that there is nothing that can be done for their child.

So for those who are healthy, untouched by rare disease: start advocating. Push for cures, even if it’s not your child or you or a family member, even if you know no one who fights an incurable diagnosis. 1 in 10 have a rare disease. And so if you don’t know someone, odds are you will soon. And if that’s not reason enough: medical science has come a long way. As humans, we reach into the bridge of the unknown- but the technology is often moving faster than the people behind it. Yes, science is racing along at breakneck speed but that doesn’t change the fact that for most, the cure isn’t there. Because science doesn’t move fast enough.

That’s not to say it doesn’t help and fix and cure: I would be dead if it weren’t for modern medicine and technology. And so would many of my friends, and a good number of people at this conference.

And yet. For most, there is no treatment. There is no miracle drug. We do not have a way to solve their disease. We do not have a way to solve my disease. So advocates fight for symptom management, for accessibility, for quality of life. For adaptations that can make life better and more livable. And yes, we do fight for cures. But medicine moves slowly. Drug trials take time. And honestly, time is of the essence.

What do you think of when you think of rare disease?

I think of closed doors. Of dreams shouldered, sometimes forever- because things have moved on from living and into surviving.

1 in 10. If it hasn’t affected you yet, chances are it will.

And when that 1 in 10 finally affects you?
There are more than 7,000 rare diseases and disorders. And 95% of them have no treatment. Do you want to take those odds?

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Members of We Are More: some of us were meeting in person for the first time. Everyone in this picture has a rare disease. (Except for Taxi)

So, is this going to be long term? 

Recently, I was asked the question, “Do you think this will be a long term thing?” This was referring to some recent concerning symptoms and I had made the request for a piece of equipment- a wheelchair that fits me and is lighter and more easily maneuverable. Now, anyone who’s ever looked at those things knows that they are not cheap, and so often the process for insurance approval is long. Now, my all seeing eye to the future was on holiday, so my answer to the doctor was “I don’t know.”

When I first got sick, I thought it would be a few weeks until it got better. Maybe a month. I never looked at my illness as “chronic” until I’d been dealing with it for the better part of six months. And even then, I wanted to avoid doing certain things because I was just going to get better. As of now, I’m still waiting. (Any day now, right?)

As my illness has gotten longer, and as it continues without a visible end, my perspective on many things have changed, as you would expect. One of those things is acceptance. I’ve been trying hard to love my body, without faulting it for it’s limitations. Of course, this is easier said than done. But one of the hardest things for me that prevented me from accepting my body that niggling fear that acceptance means giving up or giving in. That if I say, yes, this is the reality right now, that it means leaving behind the idea that I’ll ever get better.

My 18th birthday.
In my mind, at least recently, the idea of acceptance has changed. It doesn’t mean giving up the idea of ever getting better, or even the idea It means trying to move forward from the idea that me and my body are on opposing sides of a war that many days has no clear victor. It means focusing on the fact that my body has fought so hard to live and to thrive, and that I’m proud of it for doing so. I’m sure as hell going to continue to fight to be healthy. But I also will fight to live the best possible life I can in the body that has carried me this far, the body that despite all the craziness that has been thrown at it, is still going. And living the best life possible? That sounds like the furthest thing from giving up.

My service dog, Taxi, and I.

Moving forward when the destination is unknown. 

“You wake up every morning to fight the same demons that left you so tired the night before, and that, my love, is bravery.”

Hey there! Long time no see.

Since I last blogged a lot has happened. Let’s start with the good. I received my service dog Taxi, and he has been such a gift. I have another post planned about him, but I could talk about this dog for days. (As my friends and family well know, as they’ve had to hear it.) I’m also very excited for some new projects with the organization I am a part of, We Are More (we have a Facebook and you should totally go check it out). I was also able to attend Comic Con a few weeks ago, and I had an amazing time geeking out and seeing so many amazing artists and cosplayers.

My friends and I at Comic Con

And now on to the not so good: my medical situation is unstable at present. I’m having lots of anaphylaxis that is not controlled or well managed. My doctors are doing their best, but everything takes time, nothing happens instantaneously like I might wish it did. New meds and new treatments are always an ongoing process. In the past few weeks, I’ve received my first xolair injection, and my second dose of intravenous immunoglobulin. I’m hoping that these new treatments show efficacy sooner rather than later. The IVIG is definitely helping with some of my symptoms, so that makes me optimistic. My stomach is actually doing quite well, so once these reactions begin to be a little more controlled life will be easier.

IVIG round two!

I’ve written a lot over the past couple days, but have been struggling to word what I’d like to say. The posts have been mostly about finding a way to carry on when the destination is so very unknown. Uncertainty is the foundation of all our lives- and some of us are just a little more aware of that than others. It’s an uncomfortable thought, and one that those with chronic illnesses are forced to embrace.

I don’t know what tomorrow brings. It may be a good day, or it may be one that involves countless medical interventions just to keep breathing.

I’ve had a lot of fear in the recent days and weeks. I’m scared of what’s happening to my body. I’m scared of the bad days. I’ve had a lot of trouble continuing to move forward when it seems like there are roadblocks at every turn. You would think after so much time spent with my body that it would get easier when it fails…news flash. It doesn’t. Or at least not much.

It’s easy in these circumstances to view your body as the enemy, the very thing you are fighting. I’m trying to change my perspective to see it as an ally- a friend for whom I need to provide support and love and care. So for anyone who feels like your body is betraying you- be gentle with it. It’s trying its best.

There’s a favorite song of mine that goes “Let it roll right off your shoulders…don’t you know the hardest part is over?” And I listen to it and wonder if it is.

People talk about bravery and strength, but I don’t feel particularly brave or strong. I feel tired and frustrated. I’m trying to remind myself that strength doesn’t always mean being positive or making it sound better than it is- because sometimes life is hard, and strength is just carrying on.

Got out of the house to go to the bookstore.

And so that’s where I am right now. I am uncertain and tired, but I know that if this is my life, and these are the cards I have been dealt, than I WILL live this life to the best of my ability. I will make the best of my good moments. And embracing the bad moments is a work in progress, but I’m getting there. I’m getting there. Things like crafts, friends, my amazing parents, and my big dork of a dog make it easier.

Taxi and I : suddenly my bed seems very small!

So if you have the gift of free breathing, of eating what you please and and doing what you wish, please don’t take it for granted. The little things are truly the most important. Those minor details of life most of us gloss over…those are the things that matter. Sometimes even more than the big things.

This is a bit of a stream of consciousness post. I have some other things written out and planned, so look out for those in the coming days/weeks.

As always, thank you for the support and love. Thank you for reading my words.