Tanya M. Holton
I’ve dedicated my entire professional life to nonprofit fundraising, always choosing organizations in the realm of education. I’ve been fortunate to care deeply about every nonprofit I’ve worked for—from higher to elementary education, civic to multicultural education, and braille literacy to healthcare education—at organizations as varied as Boston University, National Braille Press, and The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare at Massachusetts General Hospital. My MALS journey differs from my other Board colleagues because my symptoms came on without warning when I was in my late 40s, although I had experienced unexplained lightheadedness for a year prior. I remember the day when I had the first of what I would now call a MALS episode. Two weeks later I was taken to the ER from work for what we thought was a heart attack. After struggling for nearly a year with undiagnosed symptoms, losing nearly 45 lbs from being unable to eat without debilitating pain, spiraling into anxiety attacks, and becoming at risk of injuring organs through lack of blood flow and nutrition, my doctor put me on medical leave. I cried tears of happiness when I finally had a diagnosis and a clear path to surgery and healing. I consulted with two vascular surgeons in Boston and then found a MALS expert in another state. I chose laparoscopic surgery in January 2017 because of the surgeon’s holistic approach. During many months of healing and post-surgical challenges, such as costochondritis and SIBO, I found my peace through mentoring other MALS patients on the long road to diagnosis and wellness. During that time, I also advised small nonprofits on fundraising strategy, stewardship, project management, and team building. Now, I’m back to full-time employment, and full-time enjoyment of life again, and am thrilled to continue to give back to the MALS community through this National MALS Foundation.