Saturday, July 26, 2014

Empty Red Shoes: Increasing Awareness of Lyme & Invisible Illnesses

In memory of Australian Lyme patient, Theda Myint, the Worldwide Lyme Borreliosis Association (more info can be read via the link) held the second international 'Red Shoe Day' on 25th July 2014 (spanning multiple dates to accommodate global time differences)*.  Their goal is to create an annual day of remembrance for people who have lost their lives to Lyme Disease and other invisible illnesses.  The Facebook page created for the event listed almost 1000 people as 'attending' and invited people from all around the world to post photographs of them wearing red shoes to the page - of which there are now hundreds.

*Edit: 2014 was not the second international red shoe day, but the second time red shoes were worn to commemorate Theda - her friends decided to wear red shoes to celebrate her life on the day they said goodbye to her.  This year is the first year it went global.  

Reading Theda's story - and all stories about those who have lost their battle with Lyme disease - evokes an overwhelming emotional reaction in me.  I don't think there is a single time I have read about a stranger, someone I never knew, who has suffered and died from Lyme Disease, or CFS/ME (Theda's original diagnosis, and also mine) and not cried.  There is never a time when I haven't thought: that could have been me.  Because it could have been. 

And: that should have been prevented.  Because it could have been.

This reaction is why most people with any kind of invisible illness want to increase awareness and foster understanding as much as we want (a) cure(s).  Many people are unaware that Lyme Disease, for example, can be fatal.  Raising awareness means more people can get early treatment, fewer people will die from an infection that CAN (in most cases) be easily treated in its early stages.  And stories like Theda's will disappear.

If it had been me, I would be very proud of my family and friends if they started a worldwide movement to support others.  Her friends chose red shoes (not 'Lyme' green ones) because they were her favourite colour of shoe.  They also feel red shoes can be all-encompassing, representing all invisible illnesses.

I wore my own red shoes on Friday and hopefully next year anyone reading this will wear red shoes too.

(Actually, lacking in red shoes, I got creative this year)

I want to share a beautifully poignant photograph posted to the Red Shoe Day Facebook page.  It perfectly illustrates exactly what Red Shoe Day is about.

I wrote about it here on the GoLymeGreen blog: Empty Red Shoes :

Photograph by Marianne Verheyen

While this is not a painting, it is most definitely a work of art, and I feel this quote is both sad and beautiful, like the photograph.  They seem to go perfectly together, as well as reflecting life lived with chronic illness.

I never paint dreams or nightmares, I paint my own reality

~ Frida Kahlo