Tag Archives: recovery

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I have actively sought out meeting fellow P/P patients in lo- cations I like to travel. By doing so, I have made some great friends around the world. This past summer I wanted to recon- nect with friends in other countries. I had already planned to vis- it my closest friend in the world, Berna, who lives in Belgium. For me, these face-to-face meetings are very important. In fact, the first person I actually met face-to-face was Hermien from The Netherlands, and we found each other on the IPPF’s original dis- cussion group. Our first meeting was in April 2002 and I had just received my diagnosis the previous November. Hermien Konings took a train and met me in Leuven, Belgium. She brought my friend flow- ers and me some cereal, copies of all of the information she had on pemphigus, and a Vivaldi CD for relaxation. This was the first time either of us had met anyone with our disease, and neither of us can now remember how much we hugged one another that first day. As with other people I have met on this journey, you just seem to know that some relationships last forever. We have met on four different occasions over the last 10 years, including one PEM Friends “away weekend” at the beautiful home of Carolyn Blain in the UK. Hermien was instrumental in starting a support group in the Netherlands, and put together a major conference with IPPF Medical Advisory Board member Dr. Marcel Jonkman. In June 2012, I took a train to Amsterdam from Belgium. It felt so good to spend the day together talking, walking, and dining. We visited the new Hermitage Museum (wonderful Impression- ist exhibit) and other sights. We had a terrific day and our face- face together time continues to be incomparable. I returned to Belgium the next day with some photos — and lots of precious memories. Another wonderful person I had met was PV patient Oceane and her mom, Isabelle, at a PEM Friends luncheon in London in 2004. Oceane was then 7 years old, but beautiful and deter- mined. Since then, I had seen photos and stories about her diffi- culties and breakthroughs, but not had any contact.

During that time, Isabelle became active in the French support group. I was determined to reconnect with these special people.

The week after visiting Hermien, Berna and I traveled to Paris and to meet with Isabelle and Oceane. I quickly realized that after 8 years, young children really grow up. When I first met Oceane, she had been diagnosed with PV for two years and her doctors were worried about her being on systemic drugs at such a young age. Oceane had written about the difficulties she en- dured, even having to soak in
a tub at night just to remove her clothes. The good news is Oceane just turned 16 and is doing great! Isabelle shared some literature and material from their support group as we walked around Paris (Oceane and I definitely share a sweet tooth). It was a fun adven- ture where time passed too soon for our liking. Oceane gave my friend and me special cups used for relaxation in a Paris bistro- type of atmosphere. Saying good-bye was difficult
and emotional, but I am grate- ful to have met these wonderful people. The “I” in IPPF stands for International making these face- face meetings truly special times for those of us who are able to connect — and reconnect. These friendships carry the same un- common bond that brought us together. Crossing the “pond” was — and will continue to be — a very important part of my life. How lucky am I? My advice to you is if you have an opportunity, grab it!