This article was originally written by Alexandra Pollock and appears in our print magazine's Nov. 26th issue!
Lauren Berger Franklin scanned the Facebook page open on her computer screen in dismay. It had been just a few weeks since the Lynbrook, New York, resident was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a chronic disorder characterized by widespread joint pain and debilitating fatigue. Feeling anxious, the 46-year-old had turned to a Facebook group with 30,000 members to find solace and learn more about the disorder. But as her eyes skimmed the countless messages of negativity and fear, she found herself feeling more overwhelmed and worried than ever.
"How could this help anyone?" she wondered, ready to close out the page. Suddenly, the words of a fellow fibromyalgia sufferer from Kentucky jumped out at her. The woman wrote that she could barely afford an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory, let alone her prescribed medication. As Lauren read on, her heart ached for this woman’s plight, and suddenly, she found herself sending her a private message. "I’d like to send you a care package full of soothing essentials just to get you by," Lauren wrote. "Would that be okay?"
Moments later, the woman responded. "Thank you so much!" she typed, sending through her address. "You’re like my angel!" And then came words that would change Lauren’s life: "Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could have an angel just like you?"
A Beautiful Gift
As Lauren made up the care package, filling it with a heating pad, ice packs, Advil, and gum, her new friend’s words flooded back. "It would be great if everyone had someone who understood, who cared," she reflected, closing the box.
When the woman received Lauren’s gift, she wrote to say that she planned on paying it forward by posting her contact information in the forum to help another person in need. But Lauren had a better idea.
How about I create a group where fellow fibromyalgia warriors can be angels for one another? Lauren responded excitedly. It would be a safe space, where people could lift one another’s spirits and send notes and care packages of support.
Days later, Lauren started “Fibro Angel Exchange,” a Facebook group dedicated to sharing hope with its members, who were each paired with an “angel” close to them in age and location. Within a month, the group had swelled to 1,000 members from all over the world, all of whom wrote letters and sent gifts to one another. Watching all the love being exchanged, Lauren’s heart swelled. Together, we truly can get through anything!
Love Heals All
Today, the group has reached 1,700 members who constantly share messages and gifts of comfort and healing. One woman wrote, "Fibro Angel Exchange has saved so many lives, including mine." And for Lauren, the exchange has had a life-changing power all its own. “I’ve always been a positive person, but spreading that positivity to others has helped me too,” she smiles. “It brings me joy and gives me strength to keep going — and helps me make every single day a great one!”
This article was originally written by Alexandra Pollock and appears in our print magazine, on stands now!