By Deirdre Maciak
IETF Scholarship Recipient
I was only 16 years old when I was diagnosed with essential tremor. Up until that point, I don’t think I ever really registered how young I was. I had started driving, going out with my friends without supervision, and doing all the things that are expected of teenagers finding their way in the world. It’s an incredibly careless time in one’s life—there is so much ahead of you that the lines between the past, present and future are blurred.
My main goals were always so clear to me. I wanted to get through high school consistently getting better at playing saxophone, study harder and get better grades, get into nursing school, and come out at the end with my dream job. But, being told that you have a chronic condition, one that won’t go away and will probably only progress over time, will bring even a busy-minded teenager to a halt.
Suddenly I had to reevaluate everything that I wanted in life. My diaphragm was spasming too much to have a good control on my air supply while playing saxophone. My physics class only had stools, and because there was no support, I spent more time trying to control my shaking core than paying attention to the teacher. I had a lot of questions. How am I going to be steady enough to draw blood when I’m a nurse? And, why did this have to happen to me, a 16-year-old girl, before I could achieve any of my dreams?
I’m not the first or last teenager out there whose plans have been derailed in some capacity due to essential tremor. But, I am part of a generation of people with the condition who have better access to experimental treatments due to research and new discoveries.
Working with my neurologist, I’ve tried one medicine so far, but the side effects were difficult, so I’m exploring other options and I expect to need some of the new innovations in my lifetime for sure. Knowing that there are options out there to help control the frustrating symptoms has helped me put everything in better perspective.
Today, I follow what’s happening with ET by reading the International Essential Tremor Foundation (IETF) website, and watch what hospitals in my area, such as Brigham and Women’s, are doing with focused ultrasound. I was also excited to learn that a family friend, who is a research scientist, recently starting working for a company that is hoping to release a new drug that would be a big step in helping people with neurological disorders including ET. They hope to know this fall if they receive their next approval – and I am optimistic that it can help me and people of all ages who are dealing with this condition.
I was accepted into nursing school and start this fall! So despite this condition, and maybe also partly because of it, I’ll give it my all with the hope of helping people in general, and possibly those who suffer specifically from lifelong conditions as I do.
I still have a lot of questions. But, the new and ongoing research for ET gives hope to us young people, that even though our conditions may worsen over time, there are also so many ways that modern medicine can help us live our lives normally and we all need to work toward that goal together.
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July is a time with the IETF draws awareness to its many research initiatives: funding research grants, advocating for more research on essential tremor, recruiting for research studies, and more. Your generosity is the reason the IETF is able to carry out these initiatives and work toward improving the quality of life for every generation living with essential tremor. Help us keep hope alive. Donate today.