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Posts from the ‘FIRST Member Story’ Category

Member with self-proclaimed “long legs not meant for running”, will run Aramco Houston Half Marathon for FIRST

 

It is always exciting at FIRST when new members are inspired in such a way that they immediately embrace our community, making the most of our services, resources, and opportunities to connect.  In June of 2013, we met Andrew and Heather Sanders for the first time, along with their son Ruairi, who is affected with epidermolytic ichthyosis (EI), at a regional support meeting in Dallas, Texas.  Ruari was just six months old.  In a little over one year’s time, they have made numerous connections within the FIRST community, providing support for others and enthusiasm for our advocacy efforts, in every possible way.  Today we are sharing the story of why Andrew, a man who self-reportedly does “not have legs for running,” will run 13.1 miles, to say thank you

Heather and I had decided we would try to run a marathon when we moved over to the United States. We had originally applied to do a full marathon in 2012, but our arrival to the states was delayed by a few months, so we decided to defer.  I ran the Houston half marathon in 2013, not long after Ruairi was born.  It was particularly hard to keep my training going on with little to no sleep in the early months!   Obviously, Heather couldn’t run in 2013, because it was only a couple of months after Ruairi was born. She did run her first marathon in 2014 and managed to beat my time! So, needless to say, I have extra motivation for 2015!

Sanders-webBut our story with FIRST began after Ruairi was born in 2012. We were obviously aware of the fact that his skin wasn’t as we’d expected.  It was very red in places, and sort of paper-like in others.  The doctors ran over a number of possible explanations, many of which were deeply concerning, and told us that he would be taken to Texas Children’s Hospital in downtown Houston.  Before he was taken by ambulance, one of the neonatologists mentioned the possibility of ichthyosis to us.

I was aware of ichthyosis, having seen a documentary back home in the UK about a family in England who had two daughters with harlequin ichthyosis.  When we googled the term ichthyosis, the image results primarily showed babies with harlequin, so we knew that Ruairi didn’t have that particular form of ichthyosis. But we were obviously still very worried about him.  Heather quite quickly found her way to both FIRST and the UK ichthyosis support networks and we have found them to be an amazing resource. Indeed Heather is very active in the Facebook community, both with friends whom we’ve met at FIRST conferences and with new members.  We had a great time at the FIRST Family Conference in Indianapolis this past summer. We met some amazing people and learned a great deal.

We were even motivated to organize a fundraiser day at the Houston Astros a few months ago, which we were more than pleased to do.  It’s really great that MLB teams do this for charities.  It brought some of the local families who are affected by ichthyosis together, while raising some awareness among those who came to the table and picked up a wristband or some literature.  Obviously, there is still a long way to go.  It was just only this weekend that I had some harmless but frustrating comments from strangers that Ruairi looked like he’d gotten too much sun.  My stock response is to tell them that he has a skin condition and, and no, I haven’t let my two year old get a second degree burn, although I tend to only think the latter part of that line!

In all honesty, I’m running the 2015 Houston Marathon, January 18, 2015, in hopes that I can raise some money to help 10151801_10152426926206153_735919315687901046_nsupport FIRST by way of thanks for the support they have given us.  I’m sure I can get some of my friends to sponsor me on the basis that a half marathon is a challenge for anybody, but particularly a former basketball player of 6’8″!  My long legs are not really made for running.

In the longer term, I’m sure like most people reading this, I really hope for a cure.  I’m confident that a good amount of research into genetic conditions is already happening and that people who deal with ichthyosis can benefit from scientific discoveries elsewhere.  Obviously this all comes down to money.  Perhaps the money I raise can also be put towards research.  But perhaps just raising a little awareness will also do some good! A donation link has been set up so you can join us in supporting FIRST, and making a difference.

-Andrew Sanders

Can Reality Outshine our Wildest Dreams?

On any given day, Amy and Andy Coolidge of Frisco, Texas, can be found sprinting from one doctor’s visit to the next, while keeping up with life’s never-ending demands and “multi-tasking to the max.” Yes, they are a married couple in the middle of their lives. Yes, they have jobs, housework, finances, and errands to run. And, yes, they are raising three young children.  However, the Coolidge’s are juggling just a bit more than most – as each of their three children have special needs.


Their children, Chase, age 8, Madison, age 12, and Drew, age 14, are all affected with the rare disease, Trichothiodsytrophy, also known as TTD.  According to Dr. John DiGiovanna of the NIH, “TTD is a rare autosomal recessive disorder that is characterized by brittle, sulfur-deficient hair, short stature, and multisystem abnormalities. Patients may have exaggerated sensitivity to sunlight (photosensitivity), developmental delay, recurrent infections, and ichthyosis.”

Mom Amy says, “Trichothiodystophy affects all of my kids differently.” Madison has Primary Immune Deficiency, a condition which weakens the immune system, allowing repeated infections and other health problems to occur more easily, and Neutropenia, an immune deficiency which presents as an abnormally low count of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that helps fight off infections. Chase also is immune deficient and has most recently been diagnosed neutropenic as well.

And yet, even while faced with these extraordinary challenges, the Coolidges greet each day with hope, energy and grace. They are bound and determined to make the very best of their situation and the very best lives for their children.310

“These kids are amazing, challenging, daunting, and inspiring,” says Amy.

”People stop us at the grocery store, at school, and in restaurants to comment on how much joy our kids bring them just by seeing them, knowing them, or talking to them. Every day brings a new emotion. Some days it brings happiness, some days it brings fear; but every day brings knowledge. We learn something new about Trichothiodystrophy and ichthyosis every day.”

But on one particular day last February, they were greeted with something a little more – a stroke of magic, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

IMG_4384They were informed that Make-A-Wish would not only be sending them on a spectacular trip to Disney World, for seven days and seven nights, but the local Dallas Make-A-Wish chapter would also be granting the “firefighting” wishes of  little Chase, making him an honorary firefighter for the day. “He got his own bunker gear. He flew in the Care Flight helicopter, and they even had him put out a fire and rescue someone!” said Amy as she described “Fire Safety Town,” equipped with “mock” rescue operations.

“To see your son, who goes through a lot, doing something he really wanted to do is truly a blessing,” added Chase’s dad, Andy.

But the dream didn’t end there. Madison, now an official “Wish Kid” was also asked by fashion designer Loren Franco to participate in a fashion photo shoot!

“Madison was so excited, she had never done anything like this before.”IMG_4820

The photos were stylized as “dream like” fairytales with Wish Kids strolling through a sunny meadow, wearing dramatic, flowing dresses. But not just ordinary dresses, these were Loren Franco originals, and by that, of course, means they were born from the imagination and crafted of “the unexpected” – more precisely…the were made from real parachutes!

The photos will be featured in upcoming promotional materials for Franco’s “Reaching for the Stars” fashion show scheduled for September 20, 2014, where she’ll introduce her latest line of art-inspired fashions and accessories. The cat walk will be graced by the Wish Kids themselves.  “Madison and a few other Wish Kids were also asked to be a model in the fashion show in September. It’s like this wish never ends!” added Amy.

So, yes, for this special family…reality shines on. Stay tuned.


Living the life you are meant to live…

We are delighted to share a guest post from FIRST member, blogger, portrait photographer and author, Courtney Westlake.

 

Courtney, as many of you know, is the mother of four-year-old Connor, and two-year-old, Brenna Westlake, who is affected with Harlequin ichthyosis. Her blog, Blessed by Brenna, invites readers into the Westlake’s lives and home, taking them along on a weekly journey of medical challenges, extraordinary courage, and the most unexpected life lessons of all. Her posts are a unique blend of topics including personal insight, clinical explanations of ichthyosis, and heartwarming updates on Brenna’s amazing progress.  It is not only a cultural commentary on living with a rare genetic skin disorder but an authentic, inspirational and truly unforgettable journey of love, hope and family.  Her blog this week expresses a moment of  transformation and the deep realization of “accepting the life you were meant to live.” 

 

My survival mode and the loss of the life I had planned

by Courtney Westlake

We are now entering the third year of Brenna’s life, and it seems very surreal to me. Every memory of the years since she arrived are some of my most vivid but yet almost part of a blur too – a blur of emotions, adjustments and just trying to find my way. And relying heavily on God and others.

Even though I’ve been a huge fan of Crystal from Money Saving Mom for a long time, I think I was most looking forward to reading her newly released book because I could relate so much. When I first saw the title, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, I knew I would be able to both relate to the book and take away so much from it.

Because I was in the trenches of survival mode for a long time. The kind of survival living where life continues around you at lightning speed, but all that you are focused on is whether your child will live. The first year of Brenna’s life, I often felt like I was being smothered. Smothered in grief, frustration, stress. I did my absolute best to focus on the positive.

Courtney Holding Brenna

I said no and stepped away from just about everything I had been involved with. I cut my photography studio work way, way back – after having just completed a beautiful renovation to my studio space the year before. I stepped away from volunteer roles with community organizations. I quit most of my freelance writing jobs.

And instead, I lived one day at a time that year, maybe one week at a time during the better times.

In 2012, there was a NICU stay, eye surgery, 4 additional hospitalizations, surgery for g-tube placement, and multiple skin infections. That was what consumed me that year, and I don’t remember much else. I was surviving, and that was the only option at the time.

I forced myself to get dressed in the morning, to try to find a schedule, to become educated on Brenna’s skin care, to continue to do activities and read with Connor as usual. I forced myself to concentrate on the good instead of the bad. Many times, I forced myself to smile.

(And I accepted help. Because I knew that I needed it. I relied so heavily on everyone in my life for help. Lots of help. We have had so much help I can’t even name it all. And I know without that help, I would likely still be in survival mode. And I just want to take this time to say thank you to all of you for all you did for us during that time. I remember every single act of kindness, every card, every message, every gift card and meal. And I still think about your incredible generosity and thoughtfulness all the time.)

And I would say with complete certainty that every morning I got dressed, every time I focused on what we could do instead of what we couldn’t do, every time I made myself smile instead of cry, it was worth it.cIMG_0145

Because eventually time wore on…and we began to adjust. To life with two children, to life caring for a rare disease. And I realized that I had the chance to take this opportunity to rise up from living in the day-to-day to living both in the present and for the future. I realized that even though you may not be living the life you had planned, that shouldn’t stop you from living the life you were meant to.

Don’t let the loss of the life you had planned stand in the way of the life you were meant to live.

I felt like I was no longer giving things up, like I did that first year, but instead that I was being pulled in new directions, better directions. And I could follow those new paths by choosing the best attitude every day, by choosing to life with intention, by goal-setting again, by using my time wisely.

And I felt like I was almost getting a chance to start over. I could pursue my “best things,” as Crystal calls them in her book – the things I was most passionate about and most set me toward my goals and most fulfilled me.

As Brenna’s health care became less stressful, I did sit down and evaluate exactly what was most important to me and what I wanted to be involved in and what I actually felt like I had time to pursue again. Over the last two years, I’ve stepped back into some of my former roles, and I’ve chosen new ones, like becoming involved in FIRST.

I also have done a lot of praying. I have tried to really open my heart and listen to where God seems to be telling me to invest my time and my energy. To where I should be using my gifts and talents. And how to best care for and provide for my family right now.

CourtneyWestlake-2036In the first year, this blog (referring to blessedbybrenna.com) was very concentrated on one thing, the thing that was the focus of our lives at the time – Brenna. I was even encouraged by a lot of people to share more about other things in our lives, including about myself, but I just couldn’t. There wasn’t much to write about, because my life seemed to revolve around Brenna’s health.

But, gratefully, even though Brenna’s health is obviously a top priority for our family, our lives are now becoming much fuller with other passions and priorities that we have. I am no longer simply surviving, but I am living with intention and purpose again…and much more so than before Brenna’s birth. Though certain times still call for survival mode, I now know how to rise up again from surviving to thriving so that I am not continuing to live in the day-to-day.

And because of this, my writing and my blog have also evolved. I am pursuing more of “my best” and, as you probably have noticed, I am writing more about those things as they all relate to motherhood and the kind of person that I am striving to be…things like my personal goals, freezer cooking (a growing passion of mine and something that saves my sanity!), the books that I’m reading, the books the kids and I are reading, my emotions and feelings as a mother, some of my various writing projects, and my family.

All of these things – not just Brenna alone – influence my life and my role as a mother and wife…and these things are part of the new world of beauty and appreciation for difference that I have discovered because of Brenna’s arrival into our family.
My survival mode was a dark time….a time with a lot of tears and stress and mustering up all the energy that I possibly could just to parent Connor and Brenna every day.

I am proud to say that I now feel like I am living with purpose and intention just about every day. There are many areas I need vast improvement in, and purposeful living is always an exercise in discipline – it is something I work at every day.

But I’ve found that once you get into the habit of smiling, of choosing to see the good over the bad, it comes more easily in all areas of life. And it greatly impacts all other areas of life.

My life today looks much differently than when I envisioned marriage, children and my career as I was growing up. My planned life was much, much different than my real life is. But today, I’m realizing that this is the life that God had planned for me. When I was clinging to the things I felt like I was having to give up, God was leading me toward a different path, a path where I would be able to use the gifts and talents he gave me in a different way, as part of his plan. In each new season, I am striving to open my heart to where I believe God wants me to be and to go.

Now that I have stopped mourning the loss of the life I had planned,

I am discovering every day that the life I am meant to live is so much better.

bookcoverCourtney has recently released her beautiful and inspirational book, That’s How You Know, available at www.blessedbybrenna.com.  Like a warm hug from a very best friend, its uplifting messages and soft illustrations offer hope and inspiration on every page.

 


Building Your Case for Social Security Disability Benefits (SSD)

 

margot 2830.FURYAlthough during his “working years” FIRST member, Steve Flury, had contemplated applying for Social Security Disability (SSD), a nudge from a recent life transition would encourage him to take a serious step toward the process. 

“Once the three kids came along, our budget got really tight, and there was no room for me to miss work because of my condition,” he said.   

His first “real” step toward seeking SSD benefits was actually taken at a FIRST Patient Support Forum, two years ago in Chicago.  “I asked Moureen Wenik (Program Director at FIRST) if I should apply for Social Security Disability benefits and if she thought I’d have a chance,” Steve said.  “Mo’s response was very encouraging. In fact, she said ‘absolutely!’  She gave me some information about the SSD and then…I got to work.”

After consulting with a few Social Security Disability (SSD) attorneys, it was clear that Steve would need to collect all of his medical records including, but not limited to, lab results, photos, biopsies and hospitalization records, from dermatologists, general practitioners, and any other specialists he had ever gone to for medical attention.   Additionally he would need to collect letters from as many doctors as possible, stating that he was in a compromised situation for most work environments. The doctor’s letters would also need to explain the possible health complications associated with lamellar ichthyosis, like overheating and being prone to infections. Plus the letter would need to state that his condition would be long-term, lasting at least one year or longer. 

 “In other words, I was told to go in armed and build as strong a case for myself as possible. So that’s what I did.”

Steve immediately rolled up his sleeves and for the next several weeks, began the journey of contacting all the doctors he had seen for the past twenty years.  His additional due diligence included searching the SSD website for various “disability codes” he would need for his application. “I knew the more prepared I was, the more painless the process,” he mentioned regarding his desire for as “hassle-free” an experience as possible.

 “I have a few other issues like severe eczema, food and environmental allergies and asthma, but I believe the deal sealer was that I had genetic testing done…because you can’t argue with that – and it leaves no room for doubt.”  His genetic testing, showing a positive result for lamellar ichthyosis, added even more credibility to his medical documentation.

“Step one was to submit everything online. Then I was assigned to an agent that I needed to meet with in-person to substantiate the case.”  Due to the detail and thoroughness of his application, Steve was almost immediately approved. “In fact,” he mentioned, “she asked why I hadn’t applied sooner.”  Steve has now been receiving Social Security Disability benefits for nearly a year and a half.

In summary, although there is no  guarantee of approval for any social security disability claim, preparing the application to the best of your ability should include the following:

1) If possible, consult with a SSD attorney to be sure you are following the correct steps, and preparing as thoroughly as possible. Finances should not be a concern because attorneys representing individuals seeking SSD benefits cannot charge for consultations. They are only paid if a person is awarded benefits and the attorney’s fee is approved by either SSA or a Social Security Administrative Law Judge.

2) Contact any doctor, of whom you were once a patient, or currently a patient, and obtain complete medical records, dated as far back as possible.

3) Obtain as many doctor’s letters as possible, outlining specific details about the potential dangerous side effects of the condition of ichthyosis, and that you are in a compromised situation for most work environments. Letters must state that you will have this condition for a least one year or longer.

4) Obtain genetic test results.

Find out more about applying for SSD benefits.  


 


 

“Our Caterpillar Would One Day Be a Butterfly”

We often hear stories from young families who are given the diagnosis of ichthyosis, soon after the birth of their child. Many families are surprised, confused, and often scared. This week we received a story from the Taylor family, sharing not only how they coped with the initial news that their baby Brooklyn, now three months old, was born with lamellar ichthyosis, but how they are finding their strength in Brooklyn herself.
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Brooklyn Taylor was born as a collodion baby in October of 2013 at Fauquier Hospital in IMG_20131107_195144Warrenton, Virginia. We had no knowledge of this beforehand and our oldest child had no signs of ichthyosis, so seeing Brooklyn like that was very scary for us. She was full-term and appeared very healthy, but when they took her from my arms I thought the worst and prepared myself to hear that she wasn’t going to make it. Hours after she was born they transferred her to a more equipped hospital.

She spent nine long days in the NICU ward at University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Doctors came and went and we were told the worst, but we knew that our little caterpillar one day would become a beautiful butterfly. Her skin appeared as if she had been burned and it was so tight that it pulled her mouth and eyes open until they were flipping outwards. We were afraid that she wouldn’t be able to eat on her own due to the complications of her closing her mouth, but Brooklyn didn’t give up. With help from a wonderful lactation specialist she latched on, but later we realized it was less stressful to just bottle feed.

A doctor suggested that we go ahead and do a skin graphic surgery on her eyes to help them close. We begged him to wait until the hard shell came off so we could see if maybe it would fix itself. Weeks after coming home, the membrane fell off and within days Brooklyn was closing her eyes on her own. We went to a follow-up appointment with the doctor and when he saw her he could not believe his eyes.

IMG_20131204_120251 Later that month we were told by her dermatologist that she had lamellar ichthyosis. We were overjoyed to finally have a name to put with the condition, but reading about lamellar was probably the hardest thing for us to do. Of course the pictures and information were very helpful, but they didn’t give us any hope. Later we saw that the hope we were looking for was right there in Brooklyn. From day one, she has showed us to never give up and that she doesn’t need to be healed, but accepted for who she is and how she is – beautiful inside and out.

Three months have passed and we are still learning about her condition and finding out what works for us. Bath time may be long and straining, but Brooklyn seems to enjoy it and she sure does remind us when its time for it. She is a very happy and demanding baby and every day is a challenge, but she loves having all the attention. Other than that, she is a normal child to us and should be treated as one by others. We are so proud of our beautiful little girl and because of her everyone can see what real beauty looks like.


Conference, Connections & Life Changing Moments


There is no greater way to express the life changing moments that occur for members at our Family Conference, than to invite you into one of those very moments. Board member and FIRST advocate Tracie Pretak has had gained enormous benefit from attending the conference, but there is one special moment she’d like to share, that stands out a bit more than the rest.

Not sure if you should attend the conference? Consider this:Twenty-six years ago, I had a two-year old daughter with Lamellar Ichthyosis (LI) and we attended our first FIRST conference and our lives would never be the same. Meeting others who understood, who’d gone through what we were going through, and grew up to be successful and happy was overwhelming!

One man I met, Jim, totally changed my thoughts on how to raise Bailey. You see, Jim, who also has LI, told me that he ran cross-country in high school. That blew my mind…because with LI, Jim can quickly overheat.  He said his parents let him try it and found a safe way for him to do it (people would stand along the route and throw buckets of water on him!). He said they tried to give him as normal a life as possible. And so…I did that with Bailey. And when she wanted to dance, on a hot stage under hot lights, I thought of Jim…and I said yes! We took precautions and trained the dance teacher and stage crew on how to prevent and treat heat stroke.

Bailey not only excelled at dancing, she continues to grace the stage at our annual recital. Plus she now is teaching a new generation of little dancers. I’m not sure any of this would have happened, if we hadn’t met Jim.

Fast forward to last year’s conference. We had not been to one in awhile, but decided to go and encourage other families, kids, and teens affected with ichthyosis. On the first day, we walked into the meeting room and who did we see? Jim! Unbelievable! We hadn’t seen him in 24 years! It was so amazing for Bailey to meet the man that “let her dance!” I felt like everything came full circle in that moment.

We were there to offer to others what he gave to us…HOPE. We learned that Jim has actually run a marathon! What an inspiration! It was so amazing to watch Bailey throughout the conference that weekend. I have never seen her so self-assured, so confident. It was worth every penny spent to see her smile; to see her be so open; to see her inspiring the kids and teens and parents and grandparents!   It was such an amazing weekend of connecting that I don’t think we will ever miss another one.

Come to Indiana…we want to meet YOU!!! – Tracie

Carly Findlay, Big Ambitions, Strong Work Ethic…and a Loud Laugh!

Carly Findlay, a young Australian woman, affected by Erythroderma and Netherton syndrome, has endured the daily stares and insensitivity of strangers, for as along as she can remember. She has walked the unpaven path of rare disease and experienced a side of life that many people will never know –  and still yet, Carly greets each day with an open-armed optimism, and an enviable zest for life.

FIRST has been following Carly as she courageously and candidly shares her experiences, and her resonating words of wisdom. Her weekly blog takes us to the most unexpected places – switching the lights on and opening our eyes to not only a whole new side of the world, but a new side of life. Carly’s side of life: the bright side.

Today, we are delighted to have Carly Findlay share the secret of her optimism and her fool proof recipe for resilience:

I present with a red face, a sore body and scales that leave snowflakes on every surface – it’s ichthyosis – if you want to be really specific, it’s a diagnosis of erythroderma at birth and Netherton syndrome at age 10. I also present with a sunny disposition, a positive “this is just how it is” attitude, a zest for life, big ambitions and strong work ethic, and a loud laugh. I don’t so much notice the stares anymore – my friends and family do. I tell them “keep walking, don’t worry about the stares.”  And we do. The stares don’t stop me. I’m confident enough  to hold my head up high.

I get asked a lot about my level of positivity and resilience , despite my ichthyosis. Doctors, colleagues, other people with a wide range of disabilities, parents, audiences I write and speak for – they all ask. Some have told me they could not face the world if they were in my skin.

I think it comes down to being raised by very encouraging parents, and having a strong sense of self worth and acceptance of my ichthyosis. This is the life I’ve been given and I’m going to live it to the full. It’d be tiring to let the hard times get to me. I’d be lost without a full life. I believe happiness is a choice, and with happiness there’s hope. I’ve chosen to make the best of what may have been a difficult situation.

As a child, it was hard. I tell young people and parents of babies and young children with ichthyosis this. And then I tell them that it gets better.   I want to show people that life can be pretty good living with a visible difference.

I can have a big laugh at myself (and the funny situations when people ask me what happened to me). Living with ichthyosis is pretty funny. When I traveled to America, I had four members of the LAX bomb squad come to investigate my jar of prescribed paraffin because they thought it was a safety threat (despite a letter from my dermatologist and liaison with the airline prior to my trip). It was hard not to laugh!

I also have the following tips for staying positive, (as originally provided to FIRST member DeDe Fasciano and posted to her blog, http://ouryoungwarriorevan.blogspot.com):

- Try not to compare yourself with others (or parents, don’t compare your kids with other kids). Your progress is your own. You may look different but you’re perfectly you.

- Have a good relationship with your doctor. Hopefully you’ll be seeing a dermatologist. If you’re not, ask your general practitioner to refer you to one immediately. See them regularly. Listen to their advice, but also let them know you want a say in your treatment. You’ll know what feels best for you. As you grow up, you’ll get to know your skin pretty well.

- Try to stretch yourself as you mature. Get out there and have a go – play sports (though this is my least favorite thing!), join a group like cubs or girl guides, sing in a band. You’ll make heaps of friends and learn new skills. The best thing I did was get a part time job in a department store age 17. Working in a public role helped me become more confident, and it also forced me to answer questions about my skin in a calmer and more professional way. I made life long friends at this job. I wished I’d started working earlier.

- Find a support group. Your local hospital may run one. You may find one online. You need not even talk about your ichthyosis – you may want to just talk about your interests. Remember though, everyone’s experiences are different and what works for your friend in the support group may not work for you – check with your doctor before trying something new. And don’t let others’ issues with their illness bring you down. Surround yourself with positive people

[Carly Findlay lives in Australia. She is an award winning writer, documenting what it's like to live with ichthyosis and a visible difference. She sometimes speaks to a large audience, presents on community TV and does the odd radio show. She says the best part of having ichthyosis is that paraffin and constant skin renewal keeps her looking 23! Ichthyosis is better than any anti-ageing product.

Read Carly's blog at http://Carlyfindlay.blogspot.com]


Are you a Young Adult With Ichthyosis?

 

Then you’ve come to the right place.  FIRST, the leader in advocacy and support for those affected with ichthyosis, is officially forming a group of young individuals that will address the most relevant issues and concerns, faced by those between the ages of 18 to 30.  Whether it’s job searching, dating, or even finding the type of make-up that works best with your skin condition, our young adults with ichthyosis (also known as YAWI), will be bringing you tips, advice, events and online resources to help you through one of the most transitional times of your life. At the moment the group is small in numbers and there’s plenty of opportunity to get involved.  

Today, we invited FIRST member Greg LiCalzi, a YAWI himself and the originator of the YAWI concept, to offer you a little more insight about this exciting new chapter for FIRST…

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Hello FIRST readers! I would like to introduce myself. My name is Greg LiCalzi. I am a 31 year guy with lamellar ichthyosis and  I am proud to lead a new group at FIRST focused on young adults with ichthyosis.  I live in New York City with my wife and 4 month old daughter, Colette.  I have struggled with ichthyosis my entire life and feel privileged that FIRST has given me this opportunity to help start this amazing group. I think we can really help each other out.

“Young Adults With Ichthyosis”, what a mouthful! From now on, let’s just call ourselves YAWI.

 Who is a YAWI?

A YAWI is someone with ichthyosis between the ages of 18 – 30.  This is an important age when you are making many vital decisions in your life.  During these years many folks are dealing with the highs and lows of leaving high school, moving on to college, finding their first job, dating, marriage and ultimately starting a family!

So much going on – not to mention a little skin condition called ichthyosis! It is not easy and sometimes you need support from others who really know what you’re going through. That’s where YAWI comes in.

What is the Group?

This group will serve as a support network for all YAWI. We hope to be with you during the good times, the bad times, and all those in between.   Collectively, we have mountains of advice, experience and information.

But ichthyosis, as you know, is rare.  Not too many people have it and without some sort of database, finding a fellow YAWI is like finding a needle in a haystack. I live in New York City, home to over 8 million people.  Of those 8 million people, 40 people have lamellar ichthyosis.  Forty people!  One out of 200,000!  I consider myself social BUT it will take me a long time to meet 200,000 people

Our hope is to keep a database including the following:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Location
  • Type of Ichthyosis
  • Contact Information

This database will serve as a central source of communication between YAWI. It will be a private list monitored by me and YAWI Group leadership.  No one will have access to this list.  With this database, we can set up connections. For example:

  • Hold YAWI breakouts at the family conference and regional meetings.
  • Depending on locations of those that join, arrange get-togethers in convenient geographic areas
  • Plan conference calls on specific topics (i.e., starting college, job interviews, dating, etc.)
  • Develop content for YAWI blog, newsletter column, and other YAWI communications
  • Create a closed Facebook group to talk and exchange ideas, share concerns

I lived the first 29 years of my life without meeting someone else affected with ichthyosis, I think it is important to make connections with others who know EXACTLY what you are going through.

What does the future hold?

My hope is that you share your information with us and become involved.  This is a tough disease.  I have been LIVING with it for 31 years. We all LIVE with it.  If you don’t have it, you will never understand the emotional and physical drain that it can be. This YAWI group will allow us to talk to people first hand who are also living with ichthyosis. I hope the YAWI group can allow us to help others and be helped by others.

This is awesome and I want to be involved!

The YAWI group is forming right now. Get in on the ground floor and help jumpstart our future.  You’ll find more information and a sign-up form on our YAWI web page.

OUR FIRST YAWI CONFERENCE CALL IS SCHEDULED FOR MONDAY, SEPT. 16th at 8:00 pm EST.

Sign up to find out more!

Thanks so much!

Greg LiCalzi