How the kindness of strangers boosted us on a difficult LEMS day

We each have the ability to change someone's life, says a rare disease mom

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by Lori Dunham |

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Last December, our family spent a few days in Atlanta working with the humanitarian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse on its project Operation Christmas Child. It was a trip I wasn’t sure our daughter Grace could make. She’d been diagnosed with Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS) three years earlier, at age 15, and her symptoms had significantly limited her physical abilities.

I knew the trip would require us to stand for long hours, as we’d be working an assembly line and filling shoeboxes with small gifts to be mailed to children in need all over the world. However, after several years of treatment, Grace felt ready to push herself physically. She didn’t want to be hindered from serving in the way she desired.

After the momentous trip, we headed home to Florida. Halfway through the drive, we noticed everyone was tired, Grace especially, so we stopped at Cracker Barrel for lunch. We talked about the struggles and triumphs Grace had experienced as we ate platefuls of turkey, cornbread, and Southern-style green beans.

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Although she’d accomplished what she’d set out to do, it came at a cost. The trip left Grace fatigued and weak. At one point, her frustration had bubbled over because she had to stop working while everyone else her age continued on. Other teenagers stayed up late into the night playing games, but Grace’s body wouldn’t allow her to.

Hearing Grace talk about the week’s struggles left me feeling heavy-hearted. I was so happy we were able to go on this trip as a family. However, it made me sad to see the limitations LEMS placed upon my daughter.

At the end of our meal, we asked the waitress for our check. Immediately, she smiled widely and said another table had already picked up our tab. It was such an unexpected kindness and I was overwhelmed with gratitude.

Moments before, I’d been so discouraged by what life had thrown at our family in the way of a rare disease. A stranger’s generosity made everything seem just a little more bearable.

Paying it forward

That one act of kindness filled me with hope for Grace’s future and for the good of humanity. It spurred me on to touch others’ lives, just as our unknown benefactor had touched ours.

We never really know what struggles others are facing. Those of us in the rare disease community know that better than most. Many struggle with invisible symptoms that others can’t see. They fight hard, but it’s often only loved ones who witness their battle.

Let’s all strive to use our time to encourage and lift one another up. One person can make a huge difference in the lives of those around them.

Random acts of kindness, gentle words, and generosity bestowed upon an unsuspecting stranger all have the potential to brighten someone’s day, lessen a person’s load, or encourage someone who’s on the verge of giving up.

We each have the power to change a life today. Let’s use our time and energy to do just that. It’s worth the effort.

Note: Lambert-Eaton News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lambert-Eaton News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Lambert-Eaton myasthenia syndrome.


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