What it's like to live with a progressive neuromuscular disease

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Holiday

Today is Rare Disease Day. And despite all of the talking, sharing, writing and public speaking I do about my rare disease, HIBM, it is still hard to believe that I actually have one.

I still can’t fully take in the fact that I have a disease that only a handful of people in the United States are living with and that less than 1,000 people have been diagnosed with in the entire world. (Half of them in Japan living with the Japanese variant of HIBM). Of all the 6 billion people in the world, I am one of the few who got this disease.

There’s no point in dwelling on this fact for too long of course, but every now and again, like when there’s an annual day to acknowledge rare diseases, I am reminded that I am one of those people, for example, in that video that is circulating about rare diseases. (You can check out the one minute video at

So, in honor of Rare Disease Day, I am posting a video of the talk I gave in San Diego last Friday at the 3rd Annual Sanford-Burnham Rare Disease Day Symposium. I was invited by the organizer of the event, Dr. Hudson Freeze, who is probably one of the most compassionate scientists I have ever met. The symposium is based on the concept that “treatment of rare diseases requires participation and exchange among all stakeholders—scientists, physicians, affected patients and their families, support groups, granting agencies, industry, and philanthropists.” Since this talk was to be of a more scientific nature, I was not expecting the kind of response I received from the audience. And I wasn’t expecting to have the emotional reaction I did while speaking. When I have given speeches at the NDF galas in the past, it has been to a ballroom full of familiar faces, but this was in a brightly-lit auditorium, essentially full of strangers (except for my sister and an old friend from residency). I wasn’t expecting to look out and see people staring at me intently, hanging onto my every word, their eyes full of compassion and concern.They quickly transformed from being complete strangers to members of my new community, my people. We were all there fighting the same fight- to raise awareness, to share research, to brainstorm about treating rare diseases and to explore everything from the scientific aspects to the political realities of therapies and interventions for rare diseases.

So, here is the video. It is about 15 minutes long. If you only have 5 minutes, I would ask you to watch the last 5, as I believe those to be the most important.

Thank you as always for your support.

Please visit the NDF website for more information about HIBM and how you can help fund a cure

Neuromuscular Disease Foundation

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