How the LEMS Community Inspires Others by Giving Back

A columnist's daughter overcomes challenges to help others in need

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by Lori Dunham |

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My husband says traveling is in his blood. He grew up overseas, so it was only natural that we would often travel to his “home” early on in our marriage.

When we started having kids, we learned all the tricks of traveling with toddlers. Thanks to the U.S. Navy, we were afforded the opportunity to live in Italy and Singapore. Our children experienced the different cultures, people, and food from a young age.

We always emphasized helping others through service projects where we were living or organizations like Habitat for Humanity here at home in the U.S. When possible, we’d participate in these projects together as a family.

When our daughter Grace was diagnosed with Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS), we thought our traveling days were over. It was a loss we all grieved. How would we ever incorporate travel back into our lives? More importantly, what would serving our community and helping others look like for our family now?

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Back in the saddle

Over time, and as Grace’s symptoms diminished with the right treatment, we decided it was time to travel again.

We began with small journeys from our north Florida home by car. Eventually, we needed to travel by plane to attend our son’s wedding in California. Each of these little trips gave Grace confidence and pushed her just a little bit in her knowledge of what her body could handle.

Recently, our family had the opportunity to travel to Atlanta for a few days to serve with Operation Christmas Child. There, we spent two days sorting shoeboxes to be sent overseas to children in need.

Logistically, I knew we’d be on our feet all day, but I’d hoped the work wouldn’t include too much walking. Grace can stand for hours on end, but walking far is challenging.

A family of four stands around open boxes packed with donated items in a large warehouse.

The Dunhams at Operation Christmas Child in Atlanta. (Courtesy of Lori Dunham)

I thought this was a perfect opportunity to give Grace the confidence to do something outside the norm and to show her that she can still do so much to serve others. What an amazing trip it was.

Grace did such a good job and had a wonderful attitude during the entire trip. She was able to stand on her feet eight hours a day and pushed herself to climb the stairs to the bus that took us to the warehouse every day. Her can-do attitude positively glowed, and she was an inspiration to the rest of the group.

I learned an important lesson on that trip. People are watching. They watched Grace that weekend. They knew the physical struggles she has, and they saw a teenager eager to serve others anyway.

Grace, along with the entire LEMS community, inspires others to be a better version of themselves. When other people see someone struggling to do what most people take for granted, it prioritizes our complaints and makes us grateful.

So take heart, LEMS community, people are watching you live your life, and it’s positively inspiring.

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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