I just returned from the Mid-Atlantic Researchers Conference (MARC) at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. The conference is an annual gathering of people from my “day job”, fundraising research. I have attended and presented workshops at MARC many times over the years and always enjoyed it.
This year was a bit different. Last month, an I published an article in Connections, the journal of the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement (APRA), which is the professional association that organizes MARC. The article, which I will be sharing excerpts from on here in the near future, was about how my career in fundraising research helped us to start the Peggy Lillis Memorial Foundation. Since the article was published pretty recently, I thought I might get some congratulatory comments from conference attendees that head read the piece, but that would be the end of it.
I wasn’t prepared for two of the women at the conference to come up to me and “out” themselves as C. diff survivors.
The first woman was involved in the planning of the conference and she approached me as I was getting ready for my presentation (which was completely unrelated to C. diff or the foundation). She told me that she had hesitated to bring it up since she was afraid discussing my mother would upset me right before my presentation. I told her I love talking about my mother, no matter the circumstances. That’s when she told me that following a surgery a few years ago, she came down with C. diff. Though she was sick for a few weeks she did recover. This woman is in her 30s and otherwise healthy. Not the “typical” C. diff patient.
The second woman attended my presentation. While giving the audience a brief overview of my career, I mentioned the foundation. Later, we both ended up in a group that went to dinner together. This woman sat next to me and during dinner she told me that she got C. diff after giving birth to her first child. She told me that she was extremely sick for 5 months and was misdiagnosed at first. Her OBGYN didn’t think it was related to her giving birth and her primary physician thought it was IBS. Ultimately, she lost more than 25 pounds and spent the her first few months as a new mother desperately ill. She thanked me for the foundation’s work and said she will probably send us her full story to help build awareness.
I am struck by the fact that at a conference of 200 people, 2 young women, who were otherwise healthy, both had fought C. diff. It makes me wonder how many others are out there – undiagnosed, misdiagnosed and suffering, possibly dying because of old stereotypes and the dearth of knowledge among the public.