Invisible illness: One WNY group speaks out about what you’re not seeing

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – When you get a diagnosis like lupus, fibromyalgia or M.S. your whole world alters. But the way the world sees you does not. The illness can even be invisible to doctors and the government.

Now, one group is speaking out about why they don’t want you to turn a blind eye. Every person in the Western New York “Invisible Illness” group suffers from a chronic illness you can’t see. They get together and play board games as an outlet that can be life saving.

Group Founder, Ryan Gurnett said, “Without a lot of health advocates for us, it’s good that we can talk to each other and talk about medication and different doctors and different treatments.”

Most of the group members are in so much pain they can’t work. They rely on family or live off disability.

There wasn’t an outlet for young people dealing with chronic illness, so they created one. He said, “It was lonely just not having anyone who could really understand what I was going through.”

The board games distract from the constant pain. Gurnett said, “I like gaming in particular because it kind of can occupy your mind so you don’t notice you’re in pain for a little while.”

And as they play, they talk about the challenges they face as young people. Gurnett said, “You always think you have a purpose in your life, but then you get sick and you stop working, and all of a sudden, it starts to feel like, “what’s my purpose?” “why am I here?”

So now they spread their message across Western New York, so you don’t turn a blind eye the next time you come across someone fighting a silent struggle. Christy Kassler from Tonawanda said, “It gives me not only a sense of meaning, it also gives me purpose and it gives me a validation that I’m not the only person that’s going through this.”

The group is for people ages 18 to 45. If you’re looking to donate or join the group head to their website and “Meet Up” page here. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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