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I am a day late, but hopefully still worth the read. We have just wrapped the end of EDS Awareness Month and throughout it, so many wonderful things happened–especially as EDS Wisconsin launched #KnowEDS, an opportunity for us to educate our communities, the state, the country, and maybe even the world on the Ehlers-Danlos syndromes. I’m not here to write about the campaign, though, even though it is the most important thing we are doing right now. I am here to write about all of the thank you messages we should be sending after EDS Awareness Month. These are the people who have made and will continue to make living with EDS better and in particularly severe cases, POSSIBLE.
- To our parents: thank you for raising children fighting a battle you often did not even have a name for. Thank you for taking us to appointment after appointment and never giving up on a diagnosis. Thank you for staying up with us when we were crying from the pain our doctors told you were just growing pains even when we sobbed a lot more than you believed growing pains should cause. Thank you for never giving up on us. Thank you for believing we can do anything even with challenges and for showing up to all the events to raise awareness. Thank you for telling your friends about EDS and explaining to the family members who do not understand why your child or children is in constant pain, telling them it is real, making them believe us. We would not and could not be here without you.
- To those EDS patients we have lost: I have already written about your losses and what they mean to us, how they affect us all, but I want to reiterate what that means. You are so much of the reason so many of us are working as hard as we are. We will take your loss and use it for education. You are not truly lost, because your message is living on through all of us. We are carrying you in our hearts and through our words. You were brave and strong in life and your educational message makes other brave and strong in their lives.
- To the doctors who fight for us: Thank you for believing us. Thank you for learning about things if you do not already know when we present with symptoms. Thank you for talking to your colleagues and educating them about a condition that makes our lives incredibly challenging. Your fight for proper medication, proper treatment, and proper access to everything we need–that gives us hope–and for some of us, hope is all we have.
- To our non-EDS friends: Thank you for being there even when you don’t understand. Thank you for trying to understand. Thank you for showing up. Thank you for understanding when we cancel plans or relocating those plans so we can stay on the couch. We need you so much. Thank you for not being upset when we are sometimes envious you don’t have EDS. Thank for knowing that doesn’t mean we don’t love you or need you. It just means we are human and sometimes we wish we had a different life without the stresses we have and you love us enough not to hate us for that–and that makes you incredible.
- To our EDS activists: Thank you for beginning this revolution before some of us even knew we had EDS. You have changed medicine. You have changed lives. You have inspired us to write and speak and lead and educate.
- To the children with EDS: Thank you for being brave. You are so strong. You cannot possibly know how strong you are. We all do, because we were you and now when we look back, we realize what it took to survive our childhood. It affected our mental health to be in pain all the time. It affected us not to be able to do what our friends did. Please know that you are very fortunate to have a diagnosis and it will change your entire life versus what happened to us. It won’t cure you. You will still struggle and that is still scary, but your monster has a name and your parents are educated allies we wish we could have had. When you need us, any of us, any time, we are here. We will listen. You are not alone. Not ever.
- To our therapists: Thank you for reminding us that even though our pain is real, it affects our mental health. Mental health is as important as physical health. Thank you for helping us know that. I will never forget when I told my therapist I worried my pain was all in my head and he said “Of course it is. That’s where you feel pain. That doesn’t make it fake.” You are a critical part of our care team. We need you as much as we need any other physician.
- To our spouses and partners: Thank you for never seeing us as a list of conditions. Thank you for loving who we are as human beings. We need you to help us fight this battle. Most of us didn’t know if we would ever find someone who could handle what was happening to our bodies. When we did, it was life-changing. You are sometimes in more pain than us because you love us so much, our pain makes you hurt. We know you hurt. We know you wish you could move our pain to you and that means a lot more than you know. Thank you for wishing that. Thank you for being that. You are the strength we need on the days we do not have it.
- To every EDS patient: Thank you for being you and being strong. Remember how many people love and support you. Remember there is hope. Remember you are not alone. Remember so many of us are fighting this battle by your side and we will be there to get you help when or if you need it. Thank you for opening yourself enough to share your struggles. That alone makes you far stronger than you can even imagine. Thank you for being a warrior. We are proud of you.
I am sure there are so many more people I could thank here, but for now, these are the folks I think most important to acknowledge. Please know what it means for you to be in our lives. We love and appreciate you all.