There were 27 diseases that had an awareness month in May. There are 13 in June on the list, but there are at least three missing that I know about. Truth is, there are not enough colors to represent the amount of diseases that need cures. In July, scleroderma patients will watch the T-shirt colors change like the leaves in autumn.
Every store I go to, asks if I would like to make a donation to whatever cause they are fundraising. Their causes are no less valid, but like many, I decline donating with a guilty tone in my voice.
People will say things to me like, “I could never be as strong as you are.”, about how I deal with obstacles they can only imagine. We all have obstacles to overcome. They are as different as night and day, but they are obstacles. Of course people are as strong as I am. Maybe they have not yet been tested, or maybe their coping skills are much different, but there is no “better”.
It has been said to me that, “at least you don’t have cancer.” Maybe. Maybe not. There are treatments for cancer that are already mainstream. There are an increasing number of options for Scleroderma treatment, but like many illnesses, things are tried based on how they work with other illnesses. For example: Most scleroderma treatment suppresses the immune system, to slow down progression, called immunosuppression. The medications used for immunosuppression are also used in treatment of cancer and organ transplant recipients.
You and I are both aware of scleroderma. It’s not enough to wear teal and do a fundraiser, but it helps. Non-profit organizations that conduct research compete with other non-profits. Not out right, but think about it; they are competing. People donate money to a campaign they care about. If it’s not someone they love, those organizations have to advertise to get donations. It’s not good or bad, it just is. I am more likely to donate to scleroderma research than cancer. I am also more likely to donate to The March of Dimes, because their work directly effected the outcome of my pregnancy and saved the life of my son and I. Just like everyone else, I donate to causes that matter to me. Yet I can still become absolutely furious in October because the world turns pink. The money used for merchandise could be put towards research and assistant programs. But without merchandise, people won’t donate. We like to feel good about doing something, and nothing seems to make us feel better than wearing something that tells the world we did something. I do it. You do it. It’s very American.
Now, after 21 years since my initial diagnosis, and 25 years after onset of symptoms, I’m still here. My hands have contracted, I’ve lost range of motion in parts of my body and my lungs are scarred. I’m still here, and functioning very well. As irritated as I get about merchandise, I would not be here. That merchandise has funded research that has saved my life and will save the lives of many more. I am taking medications now, that had I been diagnosed today, would have saved my hands, or at least the tissue that was destroyed by severe raynaud’s phenomenon. I hate awareness, but without it, I’d be dead. Awareness inspires action. Please do something this month to teach others about scleroderma. Thank you. -K