So today I have been just thinking “Why I became a patient advocate?”

I know many of us advocate have different reasons why we do what we do. So I just wanted to reach inside and figure out why I do this . You see being a patient advocate is a very tough job. Many times it is a job that many people will not recognize you for what you have done. Then there are so many others involved that know what you have done. Then there are other times where if you wonder if you are doing enough. Especially after seeing people you know or grown to love are passing away.

So after being in deep thought these past couple of days, mostly because I keep hearing bad news from doctors for me. No I am not self pitying myself at all. It is just reality! My health has been on thin ice for awhile. Unfortunately all it takes is one thing and I may be down for the count, forever. That is true with many with rare diseases.

In my community it is always so hard to see people passing away and so frequently in the last couple of years, over 80 in the past 2 years that I know. You see they, the doctors and researchers, say you don’t die from Sarcoidosis! Well I call BS. To be specific, we might not die from Sarcoidosis, but most of us will die from a Sarcoidosis related side effects. For example, Heart attack, pneumonia,lung transplant, neurological issues and any other organ issues that our Sarcoidosis has affected.

In my case most likely be because I am too sick to get a surgery or two that I definitely need. We have been putting it off longer and longer because I keep getting worse not better. So what is the answer? I don’t think anyone knows that. You see I was suppose to die months ago. At least that is what I was told. A year ago April I was told I have a couple of months to live. Did I believe it? Yes! Did I accept it NO! So I know what ever happens from that time is suppose to be icing on the cake! But honestly who wants to die? I truly thought I am ready to die. I am okay with it! Well I am lying! I am not ready! I never will be ready!

Why you may ask?

Many of my reasons aren’t about me. It is because of my family, it is because of the Sarcoidosis community I fight for. I love fighting for my community. It is actually one of the big reasons I do it. I want to find a cure! Whether it helps me or not that is not the objective. My objective is to leave this world in a better place when it comes to Sarcoidosis and any other rare disease. Odds are we won’t find a cure in my life time, but if we are moving forward and are in a better place with Sarcoidosis then I can die content. My mission when I started my organization was to be able to say I helped at least one person! That was and is still my goal. Whether it is with finding that person with information about the disease, finding someone a doctor, or just being able to ease their mind to let them know they are not alone! So you see I am not ready to die yet because I don’t think I am done with my mission.

That leads me to a couple of things of what have made me happiest about being a patient advocate.

It is not the award nominations or winning an award. It is not the recognition I receive, if you know me at all knows I would rather be behind the scenes setting everything up. It is definitely not the speeches I do, though I have learned that telling my story does have impact on other patients and also others in the field that I communicate with, government or pharmaceutical companies.

What makes me so happy about what I do is things like:

1- When I get a phone call from a Sarcoidosis patient when they see on television that Senator Schumer spoke about Sarcoidosis when introducing Hillary Clinton at the Apollo. Just to hear their voice that they were acknowledged. Also to know that I was able to reach a Senator enough to speak about an invisible illness. Not just an invisible illness that you don’t see our pain but an invisible illness that it was hardly ever spoken about.

2- Having a patient call me to say that they were ready to give up about their Sarcoidosis, because nobody understood, and they saw my website, or blog and saw me fighting and they read what I went through and they said to me that if I can fight so can they!

3- Setting up a walk for the first time 5 years ago and continuing to see all of these Sarcoidosis patients coming from all over the USA to connect with other Sarcoidosis patients. To see them smiling and talking to each other truly brought tears to my eyes. To see them come up to me smiling and crying and thanking me for doing this and showing them they are not alone. One of the best feelings in the world is to see how many of them became patient advocates and advocates for someone they love is actually the best feeling in the world to me!! Knowing that even when I do pass away we have so many great advocates for Sarcoidosis. That they will carry the torch for Sarcoidosis for many years to come!

4- I love when I am able to do something out of the ordinary for a Sarcoidosis patient. Something that they never have expected. I don’t publicize that I do it. I just am happy to see or hear how much it has helped either them or their family. Some recent examples is being able to have Sarcoidosis patients and caregivers on a billboard a couple of times in Times Square! The first billboard was on Rare Disease Day that I set up. After that I was able to work with the billboard company two more times to get Sarcoidosis patients and Caregivers pictures and something they wanted to say about Sarcoidosis. I did it not to promote me or my organization, but to give these patients the power to say “Look at me! I am here!” It also was done to let others know that they were not alone and they had someone to talk to.

The biggest thing that truly made me so happy was just last month. I was able to work with the Brooklyn Cyclones to have a day for one of our younger Sarcoidosis Warriors as a Cyclone for the day. I know our Hanna was embarrassed about it, but she will have something to talk about for the rest of her days. Even if it is just that she got to sit next to the HOT GUY on the team and get a picture. She was also able to throw out the first pitch for the game. She did an amazing job! It also was for her family. I wanted them to know that we appreciate everything her family does for Hanna and all of us in the Sarcoidosis Community. I love seeing all of their smiles. I love that Hanna came up to me and said “Thank you and I Love You!” That made the whole day worth it!! All the pain and travel was worth it at that direct time!

So you see why I do what I do??? I wish everyone can get that feeling! Just touch one life and you made all the difference in the world!

So I guess part of me doing this is selfish in my own way! But you know what? I wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world!!

That is why I am saying I am not ready to pass away anytime soon! I want and need to do this not just for everyone else, but also for me. 
I truly want everyone to know that no matter what happens to me that Sarcoidosis will be cured. It is moving in the right direction!

When I started this 7 years ago, I never would of believed we would be where we are. Thank you Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research for truly caring and moving forward at a pace I never knew we would be at. Thank you to all of you Sarcoidosis patients, caregivers and advocates! What you have done is amazing, ALL OF YOU! You might not think you have made a difference but everyone that I have made a difference not only in my life but also in so many others lives. How you might ask? Everyone that I have talked to or have chatted with whether on phone or on Facebook or any other social media, just know that you have made me who I am as a person and advocate. Each story has helped me make changes and set a course for every decision I have done. YOU ALL ARE VERY SPECIAL TO ME!

Author(s)

  • Frank R

    I advocate for the Sarcoidosis Community for all of those who can't advocate for themselves!

    Stronger Than Sarcoidosis

    Frank Rivera is a published author of two books "Walking in Silent Pain."  and "I Have Sarcoidosis but it Doesn't Have Me." Both can be found on Amazon. Frank Rivera has also published a medical paper with doctors, researchers and fellow advocates.Comprehensive #Patient partnership paper: Health-Related Quality of Life in Sarcoidosis: Diagnosis, Management, & Health Outcomes https://t.co/niiwZxUj7j Sarcoidosis of Long Island and Stronger Than Sarcoidosis have grown into an advocating organizations to fight for the rights for people who have this rare disease called Sarcoidosis. We fight for those who can't fight for themselves. We work with local, county, state and national government officials to gain recognition and raise awareness for this rare terrible disease Frank Rivera- President- Founder/President- Sarcoidosis of Long Island Founder/President- RareNY Thrive Global- Author and Blogger Frank Rivera founded Sarcoidosis of Long Island in 2012. In 2011 Frank was diagnosed with Sarcoidosis after being misdiagnosed with lung cancer for 7 years prior. Since opening Sarcoidosis of Long Island he has been a local, state and federal advocate for Sarcoidosis. Frank strives to raise awareness for Sarcoidosis nationally, but specifically in the government sector. He has represented the Rare and Sarcoidosis community as a speaker at two Congressional briefings for Sarcoidosis. Frank is a National Ambassador for Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research. Named RUGD Ambassador for Illumina October 2017 Frank organized RareNY in 2016, to raise awareness for Rare Diseases in the state of New York. He organized “A Day for Rare Diseases” on October 15th, 2016 in Long Island NY, in partnership with Global Genes, to raised awareness for all 7000+ rare diseases. In recognition of Frank’s efforts, Suffolk County and the town of Brookhaven officially declared October 15th “A Day for Rare Diseases”. Frank was nominated by Global Genes, a nonprofit that serves the rare disease community, for advocate of the year. Global Genes has also nominated Frank for their annual Rare Champion of Hope award. He has also been nominated for seven awards by WEGO Health partners over four years, Patient Leader Hero as well as Best Kept Secret, Lifetime Achievement Award and Best in Show Blog. He was also nominated by RDLA for advocate of the year. In December 2017 Frank was named People of the Year in the newspaper organization TBR News Media six newspapers one being The Village Beacon Record News. In 2018, Frank was interviewed by NBC Nightly News about the “Right To Try” bill. They did a whole segment on his struggles and strength dealing with these diseases. In 2019, Frank Rivera has promoted Awareness for Sarcoidosis with a billboard in New York Times Square on multiple occasions. Posting Sarcoidosis events, and Sarcoidosis of Long Island and Sarcoidosis patients getting a chance to show their faces in Times Square and their stories. He has also been in multiple television,podcasts and radio interviews both local and nationally raising Awareness all while being downgraded from chronic to terminally ill. He refuses to let his illnesses win and take over his life. His motto is "I have Sarcoidosis but it doesn't have me!" In 2019 his organization has worked on the motto of #YouAreNotAlone. Making sure no Sarcoidosis, and all rare disease patients know they are not alone and we are here for them for advice, support and will help find medical and mental health professionals when needed.