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A family reunion where everybody has eczema

Eczema Expo 2018 reminded me of a fun family reunion with lots of food, laughter, dancing and breakout sessions…?? OK, maybe not that part.

A family reunion where everybody has eczema

Ever been to a family reunion where you didn’t know majority of the people there, but you knew everyone was related somehow? That’s what attending Eczema Expo 2018 felt like!

It was like reuniting with long-lost cousins, aunties and uncles, and still feeling connected despite not knowing much about them or their journey. We each had one major thing in common: eczema.

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Whether some were patients, parents of patients, caregivers, dermatologists, or researchers—we were there because our lives have, in some way, been touched by eczema. We also shared the hunger for more knowledge about eczema—for instance, how it impacts those around us, the different ways of managing it, and new medical advancements and solutions.

Expo ’18 wasn’t just any ordinary family reunion. Let me tell you why…

The team was beyond nurturing!

The NEA team created value before Expo ’18 even began. They were nurturing, thoughtful and in constant communication with me to ensure I understood all details of the event and what to expect. They also supported me financially with The Carolyn and Tom Reese Scholarship Fund to cover some of my travel expenses.

I was completely taken aback by the amount of thought and care NEA and its sponsors put into ensuring that participants were comfortable and had all the essentials needed to get through the weekend flare- and stress-free.

For example, upon checking into the Westin Chicago River North, myself and the other attendees received a ‘Welcome Bag’ full of goodies. Mine contained products such as the Honest shampoo and body wash, Dove’s Derma Series Eczema relief body lotion, Zego’s vegan chocolate bars and more. It was as if they’d been reading my mind and knew just what I needed!

It was kid friendly!

NEA created an environment similar to that of the movie “Big Momma’s House.” They hosted the family under one roof and had staff caring for the young ones, while the adults went on to another area and learned about everything they would gain from the expo.

The Kids’ & Teens’ Camp was filled with activities to build connection, relationships, self-esteem and empowerment. I had the honor of doing a “Visualize Your Super Life” vision board workshop with the kids and teens.

This was an incredibly powerful experience for me because growing up with eczema, I thought I was the only kid who had it and never felt like others could relate to me. It was endearing to witness kids of all ages come together, have fun and forget about their eczema momentarily.

It was educational and informative!

 Did you know that 83 percent of children with eczema have sleeping issues? Were you aware of how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and reframing your thoughts can support you or a loved one in managing your eczema? Did you know that cannabis is being researched as a potential treatment for atopic dermatitis? Me neither!

I was fascinated by the amount of research being done behind the scenes. All of the topics we discussed at the expo were filled with juicy information backed up by scientific research. Let’s put it this way: no Google search could have amounted to all the knowledge we were exposed to at Expo ’18.

Additionally, NEA had some of the best doctors and researchers in our industry attend this event. From Dr. Richard Aron to Dr. Peter Lio to Dr. Lisa Meltzer and more, these doctors are game changers and have contributed significantly to the eczema community.

It was empowering!

My favorite part of Expo were the breakout sessions. They were designated times broken into small groups and moderators to intimately connect with the other attendees, participants and professionals. It was a great opportunity to learn from different Eczema Warriors and caregivers, share our experiences and learn from one another.

With each passing breakout session, I was more empowered and courageous to share my story. In doing so, I realized how similar all of our stories were and our undeniable resilience to overcome eczema together.

It was fun!

OK, OK, OK! I must admit that my other favorite part was NEA’s Ecz-travaganza cocktail party. It was a pivotal moment for me because it was the first time I got to express myself authentically without the topic of eczema being the center of attention.

It also gave me a glimpse of what other people’s lives may look like outside of them suffering from eczema—plenty of dancing, laughing and simply being happy. I secretly wondered if this is how expressive and liberating they would feel if eczema wasn’t a factor in their life.

Regardless, it was beautiful and euphoric! NEA President and CEO Julie Block and her entire team even joined in dancing with us. It felt like a true family reunion, and everyone knows it’s not a REAL family reunion if there’s no one getting down on the dance floor!

It was historical!

Until this Expo, it was unheard of to gather more than 400 people in one room who were directly or indirectly affected by eczema. Well, we did it; we made history together!

Leaving Expo ’18, I felt a greater sense of purpose than what I’d first arrived with. And I’m more confident than ever that we are closing the gap between eczema and a cure. I’m ready to make history again at Expo ’19. Are you?

Are you ready for Expo 2019? Get the details here.

Ashley Ann Lora is an Eczema Warrior and founder of VisionHery, a conscious movement dedicated to empowering others to take action towards living a fulfilling life, utilizing vision boards to heal one’s mind, body and spirit. Follow her on social media @visionhery.

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