June 1st, 2014 was a beautiful day. It wasn’t just that the clear blue skies and warm temperatures that made it so, but the gathering of 500 individuals who showed up at Rocky Point Park in Port Moody, British Columbia, Canada to raise awareness and funds for Neuromyeltis Optica. This year’s theme was “I am Courage. I am not alone. Standing together to find a cure for NMO.”
I was supporting someone recently who said that the most difficult thing about having a chronic illness is the feeling of being alone. The normal pattern of illness is that you visit a doctor, they give you a treatment, you follow that treatment and you get well. When you have a chronic illness, you just go round and round in a never-ending cycle of varying degrees of being unwell. It can be hard for healthy people to wrap their head around this concept or to understand how alone this can make you feel when your illness is not only chronic, but also rare.
For those of us who were fortunate to be present for the NMO walk/run, it was a unique opportunity to connect in person with others who share the same rare diagnosis. When you put two or more NMO patients together, we are immediately interested in comparing notes: When were you diagnosed? How old were you? Who’s your neurologist? What drugs are you on? What treatments have you had? What are your symptoms? One of my fellow NMO patients asked me if I’d ever been paralyzed and while I as answering her question, I was thinking to myself how bizarre it was that this kind of question seemed perfectly normal. Even though we’d just met, there was an instant feeling of kinship and understanding between us.
I won’t go into a run down of the day-my friend and event organizer Nancy Reimer has done an excellent job of that here. You can also watch a 5 minute video made with everyone’s photos from the event here. What I will say is that having our friends, family, health care professionals and community gather together meant so much to those of us who are battling this disease. Their actions speak louder than words.
“There is a community of spirit. Join it and feel the delight of walking in the noisy street and being the noise.” -Rumi