By: Sharon Waldrop
Reprinted from FMOnline

There is power in numbers. I founded the Fibromyalgia Support Group at St. John Macomb Hospital (FMSG) in Warren , Michigan in 1997 because of this principle. In addition to holding monthly support and education meetings, FMSG members have been working together to raise FM awareness in the community. Below are some of our accomplishments:

  • Met with United States Congressmen and Senators in Washington DC at the Arthritis Foundation’s annual Advocacy Summit (see Advocate for FM Awareness article).
  • Participated in a Michigan discovery meeting that was held to gather information on how the state can help people with arthritis and related illnesses
  • Founded Michigan Fibromyalgia Awareness Day (MFAD) in May 2001. MFAD occurs in May around International Fibromyalgia Awareness Day (May 12). MFAD is a community awareness initiative that began with a conference targeting fibromyalgia patients. The group also wrote state legislators encouraging them to recognize May 12 as Michigan FM Awareness Day. The legislators responded with a House Resolution and Senate Tribute that they presented to the group at the conference. We have repeated this each year. We also have received a proclamation from Governor Jennifer Granholm.

Past conference highlights:

2001: Speakers included rheumatologist James Dowd, MD; social security lawyers from Levine, Benjamin, Tushman, Bratt, Jerris and Stein; and the Arthritis Foundation.Approximately 200 people participated.

2002: Featured speaker was Mark Pellegrino, MD, physiatrist, author and fibromyalgia survivor. Over 200 people attended and 100 more were turned away due to limited seating.

2003: Expanded the conference to a full day program in a larger venue with an exhibit hall. One of the largest funded FM research centers, the University of Michigan , was highlighted. University of Michigan speakers included: Daniel Clauw, MD; Leslie Crofford, MD; and David Williams, PhD. Other presentations were by National Fibromyalgia Association Executive Director Lynne Matallana ; Levine, Benjamin; and Arthritis Foundation. Waldenbooks became a conference sponsor. The full 6-hour conference video is available for $25 (plus shipping and handling). The video includes speaker handouts and the NFA receives a portion of the proceeds. Email for more information.:Gregg Piburn, author of Beyond Chaos: One Man’s Journey Alongside His Chronically Ill Wife, and wife Sherrie Piburn were featured at this full-day conference aimed at helping couples and families cope with FM.

Our 2005 Plans:
Exhibiting with the NFA at the International Michigan Women’s Show, at the Novi Expo in Michigan , April 28 May 1 . The show attracts over 30,000 people, mainly women. We will be educating attendees about FM and resources.

Open House & Reunion(May 9, 6 PM ) A night of celebration and education featuring Dr. Jadali, a Michigan physiatrist who specializes in FM.
Group members are taking information to local Curves and YMCAs as part of the NFA’s BeAware! Be Active! Campaign.
Members wrote letters to Oprah in March encouraging her to participate in FM awareness.

For more information on these programs email Happy Awareness Day!
Sharon Waldrop is the director of the Fibromyalgia Association of Michigan, and a National Fibromyalgia Association FAME Support Connection Advisory Board Member.