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MaryKatherine Michiels-Kibler has been involved with the PKD Foundation for almost seven years. For several years, she worked diligently alongside her mother, Katherine Michiels, who is also being honored at the 2017 Gratitude Benefit, to coordinate the San Francisco Walk for PKD. The San Francisco Walk continues to raise money each year to support research, provide education and resources to those affected by PKD, and amplify the voices of PKD patients through awareness and advocacy.
For MaryKatherine, it all started in 2009 when she was diagnosed with autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) at age 13, after several visits to the emergency room with severe abdominal pain and vomiting. She remembers that she did not know anything about PKD at the time. Her mom had been diagnosed with PKD before MaryKatherine was born, but she had also been told that PKD would not affect her or her family, so her daughter’s diagnosis came as shock.
Shortly after being diagnosed, MaryKatherine and her mother decided to attend a PKD Foundation San Francisco Chapter meeting, and then the PKD National Convention in Chicago to learn more about the disease and connect with others in the area. They then got involved in the Chapter and, together, they started the San Francisco Walk for PKD.
“My involvement with the Foundation has become such a big part of my life. It has brought more meaning to my life,” says MaryKatherine, who is passionate about raising awareness of PKD to everyone, and especially to young people like her. She decided early on to be vocal about her disease and help others.
MaryKatherine hopes her work with the Foundation will inspire others. She recalls reading another young person’s blog about PKD a few years ago, and was surprised and humbled when she herself was mentioned in the blog as a source of inspiration. MaryKatherine’s advice for someone who has just been diagnosed with PKD is simple: “Take care of yourself, manage your stress, eat healthy and, most of all, don’t let PKD take over your life. Find the support you need.”
In addition to her work and fundraising role in the San Francisco Walk, MaryKatherine also facilitated the teen track at the PKD National Convention in 2014, has participated in a clinical trial conducted by the University of Colorado School of Medicine and has been involved in the Foundation’s advocacy efforts. In recognition of MaryKatherine’s volunteerism, she’s being honored at the 2017 Gratitude Benefit. “It’s humbling to be honored at Gratitude,” says MaryKatherine. “If we work together, we can make a difference to get closer to a cure.”