I had the most incredible day on the 14th and was just so overwhelmed by all the support I had, both at home and online, for which I am so incredibly thankful. Waking up to find I'd hit the £1,000 mark on my JustGiving page was something special. I truly couldn't believe how many donations and kind messages I received, and I really do thank each and every one of you.
Lots of my friends, family and neighbours came to support me and enjoy plenty of cake and tea served (very kindly!) by my parents and Helen.
University friends met home friends and family friends, old friends met new friends - and my Godmother and my Aunt and Uncle also popped round! It was something really special to have so many of my absolute favourite people all in the same place.
My day was made all the more special by a visit from my lovely Rachel. I woke up to a text from Rachel asking if there was room for one more - at which point I practically leapt out of bed with excitement! Rachel's visit really made my day (so much so that it will soon have its own post!) and it was amazing to have her there. I can't wait for our next meet-up at Christmas-time when I will have gluten-free cake!
The sun even made an appearance, and we were able to sit outside in my postage-stamp-sized garden which my Mum had decorated with bunting, balloons and fairy lights.
We were definitely spoilt for choice on the cake front!
Photo taken by my lovely friend Abi, who is much more skilled with a camera than me! (She writes a blog here, which you should all check out). Oh, and cake pops aren't as easy as they look - as my friend Carolina and I discovered...
My Mum and I made a ME Research UK cake (I promise I don't usually match my T-shirt to my birthday cake...) Although it was pointed out to me that calling it 'the ME cake' may not be the best way to get people to eat it!
I took advantage of my Polaroid camera!
Lots of my friends joined in online as well, and I had lots of people on the online event where I posted updates from my house and enjoyed looking at their contributions too (we had cake eaten and tea drunk from as far as Germany, France, America and Australia!) Above is just a few of the posts on Instagram using the hashtag #katharines21stforME.
It was a truly special day and I felt so blessed to be able to do something for my fellow ME sufferers and to be able to speak up (even on a small scale) for those who cannot speak up for themselves. Donating my 21st birthday was definitely a success and it's something I will always remember, all the more so because of the kindness of my lovely friends and family. I'm already planning my next fundraising idea!
As I said in a message on Facebook, for another charity for another illness, raising £1,500 might not seem such a huge amount. But for me, and for all ME sufferers and those who care for us, it is huge - not just purely for the amount raised (which will go to fund greatly needed biomedical research), but because it shows that so many people do care. ME is an incredibly isolating condition - both due to its symptoms as well as due to the cruel stigma that so unfairly surrounds it - so, to everyone who has helped make its sufferers feel a little less invisible: we really cannot thank you enough.
I'll finish this happy post on a more serious note (which is, after all, the reason why I donated my 21st birthday in the first place!) with a quote from an article Naomi Whittingham wrote for the Telegraph. Naomi has lived with severe ME for 25 years, and here she highlights just how crucial and desperately necessary ME research and awareness is for so many:
"For me and thousands of others locked in this prison, the only prospect of release lies in quality biomedical research, of which there is far too little. There are promising developments in the study of viruses and immune abnormalities, and the hope of identifying diagnostic biomarkers and eventually drug treatments. But lack of funding means that progress is slow and in the meantime lives are wasted.
I will never get my youth back; but progress in understanding ME is urgently needed, before future generations lose theirs"
The full article can be found here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/…/What-its-like-to-live-with-sev…. and Naomi was one of the ME sufferers filmed and interviewed for the Voices from the Shadows documentary, the introduction to which can be found here.