Lupus: persevering through medical reality

Lupus1As a single mother of one, Maria Cotton-Herring is a regular 39-year-old African-American woman who has achieved distinction with establishing a career and graduating with a degree in Business Administration from Mississippi Valley State University. Medical issues began to arise when she experienced extreme fatigue and constant headaches, which she presented in her mind as a level of normalcy. With these constant abnormalities, it naturally succumbs to an extensive amount of examinations that gave way to a medical discovery a year later. When the physician unveiled the lupus diagnosis to Maria, she knew her entire life would change forever.

Lupus is a universal autoimmune disease that attacks healthy tissues in the body. Normally, our immune system produces proteins called antibodies that protect the body against pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, and germs. It is characterized by the presence of autoantibodies that are directed against a person’s own proteins. Some common symptoms of lupus are extreme fatigue (tiredness), headaches, painful or swollen joints, muscle pain, fever, anorexia, weight loss, anemia, swelling in feet, legs, hands, and/or around eyes, skin rash, hair loss, sun/light sensitivity, and abnormal blood clotting. The disease consists of flares and remissions. There is currently no cure for lupus, but there are many treatment options with FDA medications such as Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and corticosteroids.

Approximately 1.5 million Americans have lupus with 16,000 new cases reported across the country annually. The Lupus Foundation of America signifies that 90 percent of individuals diagnosed with the disease are women between the ages of 15 to 44. Women of color are two to three times more likely to develop lupus than Caucasians. Deaths attributed to lupus have increased over a 20-year period, particularly among African-American women ages 45-64, according to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in May 2002.

Today, Maria is a strong warrior and advocate for the disease. Every year, she celebrates Lupus Awareness Month by participating in the Lupus Walk at Harty Park in Greenville, Mississippi sponsored by the Ladies of Distinction and serves as a guest speaker at Newer New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Cleveland, Mississippi, educating and enlightening the community about the disease while uncovering her current experience living with lupus. This intelligent, courageous, and inspirational woman is my oldest sister who brought light into her struggle of this disease and encourages my family and me to continue to pray for her and stay in the fight.

I highly encourage the community, especially the African-American community, to execute a checkup with your primary care physician every year. I want to insure that your health is most important. We have a tendency to avoid seeing our primary care physician for anything that involves improving our body or exploring what is going on with our body. Understanding health as the infinite reflection of self and well-being of the mind, body, and soul influence the advancement of collaborative efforts of educational information to the family and the community.

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