You’re about to enter a room full of strangers, where you will have exactly four minutes to tell a story that would convey who you really are. What’s your story?
I put on my most beautiful dress I owned. Applying my make-up ever so carefully, checking for hairs out-of-place, I twirl around gently hearing the material dance in the wind.
It is my night, the night I have waited and dreamed of for three years. I have been invited by a white and gold trimmed invitation to speak about MSA, Multiple System Atrophy.
Ever since my brother passed away I have tried in so many ways to spread the word of this disease. I promised Al that I would carry on in his name sake, but alas I am a nobody. A pebble on the beach. A mouth with a soft-spoken voice. No one hears me out of my circle of associates and friends.
It so happened that I went to visit a friend of mine in a plush city. We were having drinks at an infamous jazz club in downtown Chicago. Of course among our delightful conversations, I managed to bring up the topic of MSA.
Little did I know that one table over was a lady eavesdropping who just happened to be a researcher for rare and unusual illnesses. As our duo party was coming to an end we stood up to leave and the lady at the table slipped me a small napkin with her name and phone number on it.
I looked at it and then at her. I smiled as the thought of her coming on to me was too funny in my eyes; but I thanked her and she introduced herself formally and handed me her business card. As I turned around I promised I would call when I had empty time.
A few days later, my visit over, I was relaxing and watching television. A lady on the news was speaking. She looked so familiar. Wait! That’s her! The lady from the club. I ran and found the card she had given me at the bottom of my purse. I went back and listened to the last few sentences she said. She was looking for speakers for a convention on rare illnesses.
The next morning I called her and here I am in a hotel room she reserved for me and now I was on my way to the hall where I would be speaking.
Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Terry Shepherd. I am the sister of a gentleman who had a rare illness for seven years. It is called Multiple System Atrophy. I promised my brother that I would do what ever I could to help spread the word of this rare illness. I am determined to open your eyes and explain what this illness is all about and how you, each of you can help me to make a difference. With your jotting down important information I am about to give you, you will be able to take it back to your own people and teach what I have taught you. There is a web-site where you will be able to not only donate funds but it will also allow you to set up your own conventions, drawing in more and more people. When I am finished I will spend as much time answering questions that you have for as long as need be. Now let’s begin. Turn off your cell phones, turn your eyes on me and place pens in hands.