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Tokyo fibromyalgia patient looks for successor to spread awareness

The fibromyalgia awareness badge that Michiko Asano produced, which says, "Do you know about fibromyalgia? It's a disease that causes chronic, unbearable pain. It can trigger acute pain by just a touch. Your understanding is appreciated."

A Tokyo-based woman with fibromyalgia, a rare disease characterized by chronic body pain, is looking for someone to take over her awareness-raising activities about the illness.

    Michiko Asano, 41, who developed the condition in 2012, is mostly bedridden nowadays but is determined to find a successor and spread awareness about the disease.

    To date, Asano's activities include the creation of an educational metallic badge regarding the disease -- the proceeds of which went toward victims of the Kumamoto Earthquake in 2016.

    Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes severe muscular pain across the body. The profile of the disease was heightened when American superstar Lady Gaga revealed that she has fibromyalgia.

    It is estimated that 2 million people in Japan have the condition. The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, and it is common among women in their 30s and 40s. Identifying the illness can be difficult, as no obvious signs tend to show up on blood tests or X-rays.

    In Asano's case, symptoms have included a "sensation of having nails hammered into one's bones" in the head and shoulders area, as well as heart pain, breathing difficulty and gastroenteritis. She describes the difficult one-year period building up to her diagnosis at a university hospital as, "like being in a hellish tunnel with no end in sight."

    On the positive side, she was able to find support by connecting with other fibromyalgia patients on Twitter. Furthermore, in the buildup to a recent World Fibromyalgia Awareness Day on May 12, she managed to create her educational awareness badge with the help of a smartphone app.

    As Asano looks ahead to the next Fibromyalgia Awareness Day in May 2018, she hopes to find a successor who can work on continuing to spread awareness.

    "It would be good if I could work with Lady Gaga someday and raise awareness across the globe," she says.

    Asano can be reached at fm0512project@gmail.com.

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