December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays everyone!  This year I decided to send out a holiday card (actually e-mail) to my friends and family with a bit of a chronic fatigue syndrome flare.  Check it out: 

Dear Family and Friends,

Happy Holidays!  This year, I have watched the holiday cards flood into our mailbox with smiling faces and kind greetings.  In the spirit of the season, I wanted to make a holiday card of my own, but with a bit of a twist.  This year has been anything but typical for me and I feel the need to update the people I love about it.  If this were any other year, you might be getting a holiday card from my family (emphasis on might because sometimes they just don’t happen) sharing my accomplishments like making the honor roll or taking a great vacation.  Unfortunately, this year my accomplishments have been of a very different kind.  They have included things like finding a medication to stop me from fainting several times a day and getting strong enough to stop using a wheelchair.  Perhaps I should start from the beginning.

It all began in my freshman year of high school, a time of transition and major stress. Suddenly, my body was overcome with a heavy malaise and my muscles were constantly strained. Told by my doctors that the teenage years were a time when the body experiences "major changes", I thought little of it. However, not long after the onset of the fatigue, I began getting sick more frequently than normal.  In the beginning, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis, a hypo-thyroid disorder, when it was discovered that my thyroid was profoundly enlarged. I thought that this diagnosis and treatment would represent the end to my suffering and was hopeful that my energy would return soon. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Fast forward to present day, I now know that I suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. I have experienced many ups and downs in my symptoms over the years, which vary from fatigued but functional, to bedridden. I have been fortunate to have reprieves long enough to allow me to attend college and live away from home. Unfortunately, I am currently in my senior year, but have had to take a medical leave for the semester due to a major flare up.

While I do plan to return to college this upcoming semester, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia are chronic conditions that I will have to contend with for the rest of my life.  While my symptoms can be somewhat managed, there is always a threat that I will have another flare up like I did this year that will leave me unable to function and take care of myself.  However, there is some hope.  On October 8, 2009, a report was printed in the journal Science citing a possibility that chronic fatigue syndrome is caused by a HIV-like retrovirus called XMRV. Motivated by this discovery, scientists are working diligently to devise better treatments for people with my condition.

I have decided that I can no longer sit around and wait for a cure to come along for me.  I want to be part of the solution.  For five months I have been homebound.  I have felt hopeless, helpless, and my faith has been tested.  Knowing that there is a test available that might explain why I have suffered the way I have provides me with a glimmer of hope; but the fact that there is no treatment leaves me in a bad place.

This holiday it is my wish to raise money for the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro Immune Disease, the facility that discovered XMRV and is driving research and treatment efforts.  I know that the economy is horrible and that everyone just had to shop for the holidays, but like many social issues of our day, beyond generating awareness, the only way to fuel action is through donations.  Up to 10 million U.S. citizens could already be infected by XMRV and our blood supply is contaminated. 

Below is a button that you can press to donate through PayPal using your credit card. Thank you so much for all of your support.  Have a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year.

Happy Holidays,


Like I did with my family and friends, I challenge you to make a donation!  Press the button below...


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