We’ve all heard the saying that there is strength in numbers and that could not have been more true than with the first meeting of our Sjoggies in Pittsburgh (SIP) initial support group meeting that was held on May 4, 2013. Typically one expects that a support group might only have a few people show up at it’s debut, but will add members as the momentum builds and the word gets out. Imagine my surprise when 16 other folks (in addition to myself and the other co-leader) eagerly attended our first meeting. It was clear that there are many Sjogren’s Syndrome Patients who are seeking to connect with others. give/receive support and gain education/ information about their condition.
Of course when I first learned that I had Sjogren’s, one of my first thoughts was that I would like to find a Sjogren’s Syndrome Support Group. I quickly realized that there were none in the Pittsburgh area. Having led an Adoption Support Group many years ago, I briefly thought about starting a Sjogren’s group, but decided that between my full-time job, volunteer roles and the daily Sjogren’s symptoms I experience, that the idea might be a little too ambitious. I then received a call from another Sjogren’s patient who was directed to me from the Sjogren’s Foundation. As we chatted, we both expressed frustration that there was no group. By the end of the call, we had both decided that we could team up and co-lead a new group.
One of the thoughts that many people who are dealing with Cancer, Autoimmune Disease or any chronic illness frequently have, is the “why me“ question. But as Pamela (my co-leader) and I talked, we found that we both had arrived at a conclusion of “why not me“. Why shouldn’t we step up to the plate and reach out to others in coping with a very challenging illness.? Why shouldn’t we do all that we can to bring exposure to the second most common autoimmune disease, when so few people know about it? Why shouldn’t we do what we can to help raise research funds for the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation? Instead of sitting back and waiting for someone to take the ball and run with it..why not us?
As I watched our new members mingle, mix and share phone numbers and emails, I had to smile. Each of those people came to the meeting, unsure of what it would be like or whether it would even be worth their time. I was gratified to watch supportive connections being made. There was a palpable buzz around the room as people realized that they were not alone in this crazy, symptom-filled journey. Yes, there is strength in numbers. And I have always felt that helping others is particularly therapeutic for me. So here’s to our new SIP Journey and all of the new friends that we make along the way.