Rare Disease Day 2021: What You Can Do to Demolish the Myth That PANS Is Rare

 

On this Rare Disease day, for the 1000th time, let me clear something up and then show you how to fix it:

PANS/PANDAS is not rare, and it’s not only kids that have it. So please, stop referring to it as a “rare pediatric disorder.”

Current estimates say that PANS/PANDAS affects 1 in 200 kids. And since nothing magical happens when a person turns eighteen, you can be sure there are thousands and thousands of adults walking around who grew up and never got treated.

I have been advocating for awareness for nearly seven years, ever since I was diagnosed at age nineteen. We have seen much progress in research, but when I can still go to a doctor and hear “rare” and “pediatric,” it feels like I’ve been screaming into a void for all this time. And I realize that I am only one of thousands of advocates who probably feel the same. So if we haven’t been able to achieve major reforms in the treatment of this disorder so far, what are we missing?

Continue reading “Rare Disease Day 2021: What You Can Do to Demolish the Myth That PANS Is Rare”

A 3-Month Post-Rituxan Update

Three months since starting the new treatment, Rituxan, I can finally say that I’ve made obvious progress. It’s been anything but linear, and yet I’m more hopeful than I have been in a long time.

You may have noticed I’m not posting on here much, and my Facebook and Twitter profiles also haven’t been updated. But this is actually great news. It means I’m busy living my life and don’t really want to think or write about my illnesses. 

However, I know there are people out there wondering how I’m doing, and I don’t want to break my six-year streak of posting once every calendar month. So I’m finally logging back on to give an update.

Continue reading “A 3-Month Post-Rituxan Update”

When the Normal Is Extraordinary: Recovery from PANS and the Pandemic

If there’s anything we can all agree on right now, it’s that nothing is normal at the moment.

Maybe you’ve had to work or do school at home for nine months. Your favorite businesses are closing down. Most everyone is wearing masks on the rare occasions when you brave the grocery store. There is a constant sense of impending doom that we have all become accustomed to, for one reason or another. Continue reading “When the Normal Is Extraordinary: Recovery from PANS and the Pandemic”

Rituxan and the Waiting Game…

I’ve finished my first two rounds of Rituximab infusions and am happy to report that they went very well! 

To be honest, I was terrified of this IV medicine after reading about the potential side-effects of killing your immune system’s B cells. So let’s just say that after getting through the first five-hour infusion, I felt downright triumphant for facing my fear. Continue reading “Rituxan and the Waiting Game…”

Done Treading Water: Why I’m Really Doing Rituxan This Time

I’m starting a year of Rituximab infusions.

This is an IV biologic medication that kills your B cells. Yes, I’m wiping out a chunk of my immune system in the middle of a global pandemic. Yes, I’ve just signed on to do this every three months for at least a year. Rituxan is not a medicine you get prescribed unless you’re seriously ill—and apparently I am.

That last part is not exactly news to me, though it’s something I don’t like to admit. My baseline hasn’t met diagnostic criteria for PANS in over two years, meaning my mind is basically fine, some brain fog notwithstanding. Thus, I’m often able to work part-time and enjoy it, and I’m able to be social with my friends virtually—neither of which were so easy when I had classic PANS.

Continue reading “Done Treading Water: Why I’m Really Doing Rituxan This Time”

Self-Sabotage: Peeling Back the Onion of Baggage from Being Sick

Last week, I did something wild: I signed myself up for a multi-week professional development program.

I already have so much going on with finishing my book, but I’d applied a while ago to this selective program. So once they accepted me, how could I say no? Besides, I believe it will also indirectly help me with my book by making me structure my days better.

The fact I’m attempting this program is a big deal to me for a lot of reasons, but largely because of what it says about my mental state. For so many years while fighting PANS, I just didn’t have it in me to invest much in myself or my career. On the outside, my professors would praise my efforts because I was successful between flare-ups. On the inside, it was often half-hearted, and I constantly questioned if I even wanted to be in my field anymore or not.

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The Simple Thing You Can Do to Help Thousands Living with PANS/PANDAS

As an adult with a neuroimmune condition that most doctors don’t know how to diagnose, let alone treat, all too often, I’ve felt like there was nothing I could do to change their minds. I would bring papers and mention the many fine hospitals that are researching PANS only to be dismissed and gaslighted. Why? Partly due to arrogance or wanting to maintain the status quo. But these behaviors have their root in the “P” being for pediatric, the fact none of the research studies mention adults, and the lack of enough large-scale studies in general.

Have you ever felt alone and frustrated by how little help is available while you watch your life waste away?

Now what if I told you that you could do something tangible that could change the situation? What if I told you there was a way for you to help bring PANS out of the grey area of medicine into which many providers place it? Continue reading “The Simple Thing You Can Do to Help Thousands Living with PANS/PANDAS”

How I Was Diagnosed with PANS When I Was 19

After weeks of waiting and hoping and worrying, the time had finally come for my appointment with the mysterious expert neurologist. My parents and I arrived half an hour early to a spartan waiting room with an almost-eery quiet. A single tub of building blocks and several stuffed panda bears made me wonder if the staff really understood that they had allowed an appointment for an adult.

Forty-five minutes later, this concern was allayed when the doctor emerged to call me back without batting an eye when she saw my nineteen-year-old self. But all at once, I felt my stomach do a somersault as it occurred to me that she could be my last hope. Eight years of misdiagnoses had led here. Could this surprisingly soft-spoken woman finally be the one to help?

Continue reading “How I Was Diagnosed with PANS When I Was 19”