22 December 2009

Losing the battle against sarcoidosis

David McClendon ... lost the battle against Sarcoidosis this month at 44

Patrick Comerford

Earlier this week, I was saddened to read in The Guardian of the death the American journalist, academic and blogger, David McClendon, who has died aged 44.

For 15 years, David has been living with sarcoidosis (Boeck’s disease), although the Guardian said he had only been diagnosed with sarcoidosis in March – four months before I received confirmation of the same autoimmune condition.

David was the associate editor of the Chi-Town Daily News, an online Chicago newspaper, and taught journalism at Loyola University. After his diagnosis, he left his job and in July moved back to his parents' home in New Jersey to recuperate.

David gave a courageous account on his blog of his struggle to live with sarcoidosis, and wrote: “Disease will not define me. How I handle it will define me. I will fight it and win.”

He had written for the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Journal News, New York, and the New Haven Register before moving to Michigan. As a journalist, his friends said, he lived by the maxim that I have often said both journalists and priests should live by – we should “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

On his blog, he wrote: “I believe in the human body’s ability to heal and my ability to overcome.” However, his heart gave out and he collapsed in the grocery store while buying milk.

He said constantly that this “disease will not define me. How I handle it will define me. I will fight it and win. Defeat is not [an] option … I am also a fighter trying to kick the ass of sarcoidosis, which affects my heart and lungs … I’m writing about my plan to get the disease under control. I can see the goal and I want to achieve it. It may take a while, but I will win the fight. I will keep on top of this until it is controlled.”

David knew he was not alone. He had a great family, great friends and he felt a kinship with everyone battling sarcoidosis: “Because of them, I say I am lucky and blessed. I will put a face on it because I can and others cannot. I can move and will keep on doing what I do until I cannot do it any more. I also look forward to learning how people with sarc and other diseases cope and overcome. We'll also have a little fun along the way. “

But after living for 15 years with Sarcoidosis, David lost his brave but humorous battle against this autoimmune disease that sees the body’s defences attack the vital organs, including lungs, kidneys and heart, and that causes scarring and the scar tissues clump together.

David has left his own account of living and struggling with Sarcoidosis on his blog: http://15yearsofmysarcoidlife.blogspot.com/

Like David, I too have sarcoidosis. But as I say time and time again, sarcoidosis will never have me.

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