We’re 3 weeks into Gastroparesis Awareness Month and we’ve got to tell you about Andrew Billeveau. This young man is the reason so many of you have pie stuck up your nose – he’s the inventor of the Pie Face Challenge to raise GP awareness!
In Lynn, Massachusets there is a young man who really likes pies. He doesn’t eat them, he just hits himself in the face with them.
Andrew Billeveau is 18 years old and he has had gastroparesis since he was 10. Living almost half of his life with the disease hasn’t been easy, but Andrew has a unique amount of fortitude.
“Being sick really got me into country music because I often found songs that I could relate to. Sports also helped me cope; whether it was playing or just watching, (especially my beloved Red Sox!) sports would get my mind off my symptoms. I also compete in road races and spend time with friends and family.”
Of all of Andrew’s interests the one he is best known for is The Pie Face Challenge, which he created. “Being ill taught me to give back to others. When I was sick I would always go to bed dreaming about how to give back to others who had GP. Then one day I had a brain blast! The Gastroparesis Pie Face Challenge!”
The Pie Face Challenge has definitely given back to a lot of people. Done by thousands, including some celebrities, Andrew’s idea has certainly gone viral, and all for the good of the Gastroparesis community. “I feel like starting this challenge has given not only me, but other warriors, a platform to share their GP story and spread awareness throughout the country!”
Having spent most of his formative years with this debilitating disease, the impact it had on how he views the world could have gone either way. Becoming bitter would be understandable, but a moment with Andrew is all you need to realize he is an upbeat, optimistic young man. “It taught me to truly appreciate everything. Being in the hospital I would see patients who were worse off than me. Sure, I had GP, but there were others dealing with cancer – there’s always someone out there that has it worse than you.” And that kind of perspective helps keep him positive.
Raising awareness is very important to Andrew (thus all the pies to the face). Gastroparesis is an invisible illness – that is, it has no obvious visible signs. As the millions of Americans with invisible illnesses could tell you, because people can’t see your illness, it’s very difficult for them to understand or feel empathy. There’s even a tendency to assume people are exaggerating, or faking, and that’s harsh. With GP there is another factor, as Andrew points out, “It was very difficult for my teachers and peers to understand what GP was because it’s just not known about.” And that’s all too true. Despite impacting millions of Americans, there is little talk about it, and few drugs and treatments.
But Andrew doesn’t let it get him down, because he believes there’s always hope. In fact, about 5 years ago Andrew had a Gastric Stimulator surgically implanted, and since then, he hasn’t had any symptoms flare ups. “I’ve been extremely lucky that the gastric stimulator has worked as well as it has for me.”
When asked what he would share with others who are struggling, Andrew had this to say. “There are people just like you going through the same things. You are not alone. My motto for anyone battling GP is “Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional”. Never give up!”
Not to worry Andrew, we won’t give up.
Have you not yet hit yourself in the face with a pie for the Pie Face Challenge? It’s never too late to be silly while raising awareness for G-PACT and Gastroparesis.