April 30, 2019 (Vancouver, BC) – This May, an award-winning Vancouver singer will raise her voice for chronic neuroimmune diseases. On Saturday, May 18th, soprano Jacqueline Ko will present The Impossible Dream: A Triumphant New Benefit and Awareness Show at St. Helen's Anglican Church. Proceeds will support the ME|FM Society of BC, and the event celebrates the May 12th International Awareness Day for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) - sometimes controversially referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - and Fibromyalgia (FM).
Ko has suffered from ME since age six, and produced her first Benefit and Awareness show in 2009 at age seventeen. "I started producing Awareness shows because with an invisible illness like ME, the symptoms are only half the struggle," says Ko. "It's a whole other battle dealing with widespread misconceptions and lack of medical support. ME and FM affect over a million Canadians, yet there's barely any research funding. Most medical schools don't teach ME at all, and they think 9 out of 10 people don't even get diagnosed. These illnesses aren't just invisible because many of us look 'healthy' when we're out in public, but because we often go unidentified by doctors and ignored by policy-makers."
The consequences of this invisibility are severe. Statistics Canada reports that patients with ME and FM have the greatest unmet healthcare needs of any patient population in Canada. With 3 out of 4 ME sufferers unable to work, even part time, they also have the highest poverty levels. Ko has dedicated herself to speaking out about the struggle through her performances, even though each show causes her months of health damage and debilitating symptoms. At age twenty she co-founded the critically acclaimed arts company Opera Mariposa, which is run almost entirely by individuals with disabilities, and since then she has helped them raise nearly $70,000 for ME & FM charities through her annual benefit shows.
"It's important to me to support great organizations like the ME|FM Society of BC," says Ko. "They fill the gap by providing resources for patients and their families.They're also leading the way for broader recognition of invisible illnesses. I've definitely started seeing a change in awareness - there have been worldwide protests for ME health equality, and the ME documentary Unrest was even shortlisted for an Oscar. People are slowly waking up to this public health crisis, and I want to do what I can to help."
In The Impossible Dream, Ko joins collaborative pianist Karen Shumka to celebrate the tenth anniversary of her first Benefit and Awareness show by performing some of her greatest hits. The concert features opera, Broadway and Disney music, including highlights from Hamilton, Wicked, Sweeney Todd, Anastasia and more. The event also includes a dessert buffet, as well as a raffle contest with over $2,500 in prizes donated by local businesses.