Myasthenia, Myasthenia Gravis, MG, Chronic illness, caregiving, caregiver, lizeth, caregiver story, MG patient
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I Want to Throw a Pity Party, But No One Will Come

I Want to Throw a Pity Party, But No One Will Come

By Kate Stober

MG patient Greg Josephs could easily have let the stress and sadness of having a chronic disease overtake him. He was only 40 when he was diagnosed, a husband and father with a successful career.  


Instead, he “took back” his life from myasthenia gravis, finding ways to make every day meaningful, leaning into hobbies and community-building activities that matter to him. He even joined Toastmasters, the public speaking club, despite struggling with his speech. 


“I want to make sure people know that, if there’s a will, there’s a way,” he says. “Just because we have MG, it doesn’t mean we can’t do what we want to do. We just have to do things a little bit different, that’s all.”


With a smile in his voice, he puts it more plainly: “Put it this way – if I see a $100 bill on the sidewalk, I’ll try to pick it up. I may not be successful, I may land on my back, but I will get it eventually!” 


Greg was diagnosed in October 2002 after several months of doctor’s visits and questioning what was wrong. His condition forced him into early retirement from a career in real estate. The stress of the job exacerbated his MG, and he found it tough to navigate the chatty world of buying and selling property. 


“I was slurring and I knew right off that no one would want to deal with someone who couldn’t speak more clearly.” 


It took a few years, and a thymectomy, to stabilize his symptoms.  


He discovered Toastmasters. This international club helps members develop public speaking and leadership skills. It was a brave move for someone with speaking difficulties, but Greg had a growth mindset – if something was hard, why not learn how to do it better? 


He found this hobby benefited his wellbeing as much as his comfort with speaking in front of others.  


“I came to this nonprofit thinking it would help my speech, and I stayed because of the people that I meet. People in Toastmasters are as interested as I am in self-growth and in being a better person.” 


He says it’s “always a positive, supportive atmosphere” that’s been good for his emotional health. And that’s vital to overall health. People with chronic disease are more likely to experience mental health concerns – nearly a third of people with chronic illness report symptoms of depression, according to Cleveland Clinic.  


Those with myasthenia gravis have a higher risk of developing depression or clinical anxiety than the general population. Stress can also cause MG symptoms to flare, making stress management a key part of an MG patient’s health care plan. 


“We do know that anxiety can make myasthenia gravis symptoms worse,” says Christina Christman, MD, a neurologist at Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix. 


For Greg, hobbies that make him happy – like Toastmasters and gardening – have been key to his MG management. And humor makes even dark days seem better. That’s why he infuses jokes and funny stories into most of his daily interactions.


“Occasionally, I want to throw a pity a party, but I know no one will come. If you can get someone to smile, their pituitary will give off endorphins, dopamine, and the feel-good hormones that will benefit them and you,” he says. 


He volunteers with various organizations for the same reason. 


Research shows that volunteering also activates the feel-good chemicals in the brain. Per a 2008 study, people who volunteer report greater happiness than people who do not. While people with MG must manage their time and physical energy wisely, Greg feels that investing in service to others pays off. 


“I found out that helping others, you benefit yourself. It’s so easy to sort of curl up into a fetal position and, like John Lennon said, watch the wheels go round and round, but if you get out there and help people in whatever way you can, then you’ll feel better about yourself.” 


He gives this advice to newly diagnosed patients or anyone struggling to manage their MG: “Never give up hope and stick with the MGFA.” 


Struggling with mental health? 


Interested in volunteering with the MGFA?

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