TJ Henderson lives with a rare autoimmune disease called dermatomyositis, which causes skin and muscle inflammation. The disease affects fewer than 20,000 people worldwide and has no current cure.
While the diagnosis has slowed down his progress with work, college and life, TJ is keeping a positive outlook and finding ways to live within these new limitations.
On his GoFundMe page, TJ describes life with dermatomyositis:
For the first time I was unable to go to class consistently because I simply could not walk very far. Emergency room visits became common, sometimes happening four or five times a week. Of course, with the feeling of not being able to breathe came a heightened sense of anxiety and fear. I started to feel unsafe nearly anywhere and essentially resigned myself to the fact that eventually I might not be somewhere where I can get help. We tried everything from the very practical to the longshots…anything to help me breathe better given the body I was working with and the elements.
While the ER doctors and my regular specialists acknowledged that the symptoms were real, we were all at a real loss on what exactly to do about it. We now know that this manifestation is most likely as simple as the chest muscles becoming weak, like the rest of my body. As those muscles lose strength, the act of breathing in and out, which of course I cannot rest from, becomes a great labor.
While his condition has been a major bump in the road, TJ’s outlook remains brighter than ever. “Ultimately, I know I will finish my degree and my doctorate. I will marry the woman of my dreams and begin my career. I will become an advocate for others who need the help to push through something like this,” says Henderson.
(Video courtesy of KUJH-TV, University of Kansas)