Time to Make a Difference Together by Marly Silverman

February 10, 2011

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5003-Marly.jpg“For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions, even on important subjects, which I once though right but found to be otherwise.” Benjamin Franklin

Once again I am excited about what is to come in the months ahead in the NeuroEndocrineImmune Disorders (NEIDs) Community. I think this May 12, 2011 Awareness Day will be the best ever!

I am excited with some of the initiatives that are taking shape with the NIH State of the Knowledge of the Science of ME-CFS and a potential future engagement of the CDC with patient advocates in the NEIDs community. It is exciting of the fact that through many initiatives within the NEIDs Community, life-long friendships are being created and that the theme that “now is the time to make a difference together you and I” is coming to fruition. Stay tuned for some future announcement.

As I look at the blogs that are popping up recently, I read one blog post today that prompted me to write this blog post If you can provide input it is appreciated. I believe the topic requires some new voices in the conversation.

More specifically I would like to address one recent statement found on the amazing blog of “CFS Central” in ref to Dr. Nancy Klimas. Mindy wrote: “I believe one of the reasons that patients became so pissed about the recent Klimas study was because it felt like a slap in the face: How could Nancy Klimas, who knows full well that biomedical research is what’s needed, participate in a cognitive behavioral therapy study? I believe Klimas’s name on that study shows that her priorities are not always patients’ priorities, no matter how proactive she’s been to the cause over the years. Patients have to stand up for themselves; they can’t depend on anyone else to help, even Nancy Klimas or its own support group, the CFIDS Association of America.”

The facts are that the research in question was done almost 11-12 years ago. Unfortunately, it was only recently published in its entirety. It is the only research on CBT that factually states that CBT does not cure CFS-ME. In fact it clearly refutes what Peter White has stated, including one of his recent statement that to “his knowledge there has not been one CBT study that demonstrates he is wrong”. This one in fact does!

I speak with great insight and knowledge because I participated in one area of that study. I was among the lucky ones who were part of the 12-week study program within the research study. I was told from the beginning of the study that it would not cure ME-CFS, but it would hopefully help me cope with the day-to-day challenges I was personally experiencing. Among these challenges: the devastating abandonment by a fiancé, loss of a 6 -income figure, and loss of a successful professional career. These losses are typically the type of losses that the majority of our overall community of suffering often experiences.

I can personally say that from that study, life-long relationships were created. PANDORA was established and a new life as a patient advocate for me took shape in a most profound way. Whether anyone in our community wants to hear this or not, the fact is that this study reinforced and came at a time in my life when I needed.

And NO… I do not t endorse CBT treatments as the kind provided in the United Kingdom, without any other type of medical care. Absolutely not! However, we cannot blankly state that in the proper setting patients with NEIDs should not use every available coping tool they can find.

With this in mind I would like to ask Mindy to please reconsider the statement made against Dr. Nancy Klimas. I also ask you to join me in this request. I can share with our entire community that without Dr. Klimas’ medical expertise, I would not be writing this blog post on these important issues. I can also say that without Dr. Klimas thousands of patients in Florida and beyond would not have access to Social Security, workman’s comp and private disability benefits. When a judge reads Dr. Klimas’ credentials in a medical report during a disability hearing, he is aware of her spotless credentials. Without the work of Dr. Klimas countless patients would lose hope ending in one of the most painful events, when I am told that another patient within our overall community has died by suicide.

I sincerely agree with Mindy in many areas. I personally would like to see a complete wipe out of the mind-set of our health government agencies of ME-CFS and other NEIDs as well. I would like to see $150 million dollars being invested annually on ME-CFS. The same for the other illnesses PANDORA embraces.

I recently stated to some advocate colleagues from other organizations: “The main drive of the letter to the CDC (which Jill Justiss mentioned on Mindy’s blog post) is to change a NATIONAL policy towards ME-CFS. Only through a change in national policy from the bottom up, meaning we get patients and their state leaders, then federal congressional leaders, then cabinet members and then the bureaucrats to do what they are supposed to do, we will yield huge positive results. So here is our take: No more handouts. No more half-efforts. We need to be smarter. We need to collect connect the dots. The time is now for an all out effort by ALL to take ownership of our future and the future of millions of ME-CFS patients by collaborating…” BTW, click here for the CDC petition.

I stand by this quote. I know it will not be easy, but we have to start building trust, interaction and networking among the patient community and our government officials, and the sooner the better. Wouldn’t you think that 3 and half decades of getting “crumbs” as Mindy stated would not have induced a much smarter approach from our “independent patient advocates” also to create change? Instead what I have seen year after year, after spending 12 years watching the internal fracturing, bickering, anger, bitter disrespect, rage, and demonization of one another or of organizations across the board simply because one might not agree with another individual. It is pitiful! It has to stop! It has to begin right here. It is a waste of stamina, energy and creates emotional turmoil. The time one spends on forums creating disharmony and chaos could be better used to create change that is meaningful and powerful.

It does not help us either with the fact that the stigma that this community of suffering already endures becomes larger than life, because of such misdirected and destructive behavior.

Yes, Let’s Be Angry! Be very Angry, because angry directed to a greater good creates change. I am all for it! Yet, I do not subscribe to the uncontrolled rage I am witnessing that is quite destructive.

I do not subscribe to the theory that “organizations have failed us”. But I do subscribe to the concept we can do better! I do not subscribe that our patient community should attempt to destroy the core and the foundation of several organizations, which have established through hard work, perseverance and resilience, programs that are beneficial to the overall community. Yet, I do subscribe to the concept that we should ask questions and provide constructive criticism.

I also subscribe to the fact that organizations without patient participation, do not thrive. They slowly become obsolete and ineffective. Again, only through sincere and ongoing participation and collaboration we can all win the fight.

Our community organizations’ tasks are monumental. It is a gargantuan struggle finding resources, getting volunteers, raising funds, answering phones, writing newsletters, communicating with officials, visiting disabled patients, bringing food to patients, writing letter on patient’s behalf to Medicaid and insurance companies, and much more. I cannot help but question if any of the individuals in question have really taken the time to visit with a representative of any of the organizations supporting our overall community and to get to know them personally.

I embrace the fact that as organizations we need to get with the times, and we have to be smarter by using social media advocacy and other tools to our advantage. Some of the suggestions as it relates to ACT UP (AIDS) as I have been reading on some of the blogs or forum posts, I dare to say have been replaced, re-evaluated and/or complemented by other much more contemporary approaches.

As someone who is participating not only as an individual and as a representative of an organization – PANDORA, which wears many hats as a local, state, national and international organization, yet with a very small budget, I can state that while within the confines of our mission we have accomplished successful projects. The same can be said for all of the organizations I have interacted supporting our overall community of suffering.

A good example to share of a good and yet “in your face” approach is the “flashmob” display in which I participated at the latest CFSAC meeting. It was a powerful display, yet it was respectful. For patients across the U.S. who saw the video and for patients across the globe it was an awesome event to experience. So why are not patients asking organizations “What can we do to help you to drive our message more effectively?”

Instead, what I am seeing is heartbreaking and exasperating. It is also painful to realize that despite 3 decades later, the CDC is still lending credit to the psychobabble approach. It was this personal realization, which came as a personal anger and also shared by many in our patient community, was directed to the positive, leading to the cause-project ME-CFS Worldwide Patient Alliance on Facebook. I am proud to say that PANDORA supports this cause.

How about the grassroots artistic efforts of Sock it 2 ME-CFS? Why are not more patients supporting it in great numbers? Recently the creators of such patient initiative posted that they can no longer continue to do the project and could use assistance. This project is the one that gave every CFSAC member a well-crafted colorful sock pin and created such a buzz during the meeting in DC and at the New Jersey CFS Association Fall Meeting last year.

Why aren’t more patients supporting “FAX the AD”? A collaboration among several patient groups on Facebook and organizations?

It is also heartbreaking to see within our patient advocacy community, that mutual respect, courtesy and civility is once again lacking and the anonymity of the internet allows this kind of behavior go unpunished and seldom refuted. The tone found in many of the forums across our community are once again obnoxious, hurtful, demeaning, and counter-productive. When are we going to realize that this internal bullying approach is wrong? It is said to say that I can tell you is that this approach has been in place for decades too and the results are the same: A community divided leading to a weakened community as well. What is wrong with this picture?

Like many in our patient advocacy organizations, our board has been proactively advocating, lobbying and assisting financially families and individual patients on a personal level and through PANDORA. Often we do not share these successful results due to confidentiality and privacy issues. How can any one of us truly measure some of the efforts organizations do on patient’s behalf? One way is by sharing your experience and knowledge of any organization you support. Express your appreciation not just for one organization but for many TODAY!

For every naysayer complaining of an organization, point to something good these organizations have done. Do not be silent! One does not have to engage in a heated exchange, one can just say what it comes from the heart. At the end of the day the same rights one individual has in order to state a hateful position applies to a kind one too. Why are we so afraid to confront the tone of these voices?

Let me be clear, I am not advocating preventing someone from expressing what he or she feesl feels, I am only expressing concern over the delivery of the message.The reality is that until someone walks in someone else shoes, (by the way the name of PANDORA’s official walkathon is “WalkInMyShoes™) one cannot 100% express that he or she is the absolute holder of the truth. It works both ways! It is also accepted by reasonable people that patients who diminish one organization over another are doing a disservice to the overall cause. As a patient I take umbrage on these types of approaches. As a patient I have to stand up and question one’s motives.

There is no other diplomatic way to state what I am posting here. I know that I am going to probably get hate mail. I will have to deal with it. I also know that for each hateful e-mail, I will get 10 stating otherwise. I just hope I will not get death threats as some of the perceived enemies of our community including a controversial researcher has received when inflammatory writings by a few hit the forums and the internet.

As one very wise woman Tammy Saltzman (a S. Florida life coach) recently quoted another very wise woman- Margaret Chase Smith, “Every human being is entitled to courtesy and consideration. Constructive criticism is not only to be expected but sought.” Therefore I welcome your input but I will also exercise my personal right to not post replies, which will damage the fabric and the strength of our overall community.

I appreciate your taking the time to read this blog post. Thank you for all that you do.

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