The first Rare Disease Day was first launched in Europe by EURORDIS, The Voice of Rare Disease Patients in Europe, and its Council of National Alliances in 2008. The USA joined the cause in 2009. By 2016, Rare Disease Day has become a worldwide event with over 80 countries participating.
Rare Disease Day is a pretty cool thing for those of us with rare diseases. According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD):
“Rare diseases are not so rare: there are 7,000 rare diseases & disorders that combined affect 30 million Americans–1 in 10 of us–and more than half are children.
People with rare diseases have tremendous unmet needs, including misdiagnosis, a long time to finally receive a correct diagnosis, and when they do, 95% have no treatment with ZERO CURES.
Rare Disease Day takes place on the last day of February each year. The main objective is to raise awareness with the general public and decision-makers about rare diseases and their impact on patients’ lives.”
This year’s global theme is research. It is our chance to give lawmakers, industry leaders, researchers, and healthcare professionals a glimpse of the impact a rare disease and its treatments may have. It is a local, national, and international awareness event.
Rare Disease Day is a day of unity for us patients. I can’t speak for you, but I felt very alone and isolated when I found out I had pemphigus vulgaris. Then I found community in the IPPF. It was very comforting to know there were others out there who had gone through what I was living through. Now imagine being with hundreds of others who have a variety of rare diseases. Like us, they are patients looking not only for effective treatments, but also cures. On Rare Disease Day, we are a united front advocating for increased funding for research. It’s a time of inclusion. A time for uniting as one. A time to make a difference.
It’s also a time to network with other patients and learn about their diseases, how those diseases affect them, and what their disease organizations do to support their needs. It’s a way to find out what we – as members of the IPPF – can do better to help and support all who are affected by rare diseases. It is a time to find community and strength in knowing that we are not alone in a search for better treatments and cures.
Rare Disease Day is a day to find strength and power in your weakness, your disease. You have the power to share your story. Your story has the power to impact the leaders of your city, state, and country. Your story can evoke changes in law, government, healthcare, and medical education.
I encourage you to look for opportunities where you can get involved. If no opportunity exists near you, you can create your own. You could share your story with co-workers or local government officials, organize a bake-sale and donate the proceeds to the IPPF, or organize a run/walk to raise awareness. The list of possibilities is endless. Just be sure to explain what pemphigus and pemphigoid are and refer people to the IPPF if they have questions.