Chances are you know of someone that has Lupus or has been affected in some way. Or perhaps you have only heard of the disease in passing and feel that the subject in general has nothing to do with you personally.09-07-11-lupus.jpg

But consider this, there are at least 4,000 people in Cumberland County alone who have been diagnosed with lupus. They are your neighbors, your co-workers, the cashier at the gas station or even one of your classmates at school. They are an integral segment of the 45,000 people in the state of North Carolina living with lupus today.

That’s an awful lot of people.

Lupus is a disease of which there is no known cure and no known cause; a chronic disease that can literally destroy the skin, tissues and organs within the body. With lupus, the immune system confuses germs and bacteria with healthy tissues and organs. In response, the body creates auto antibodies that attack normal and healthy tissues; this can cause pain and harm to essential parts of the body like the kidneys, joints and even the blood.

Unbelievably, there has not been an approved FDA drug to come on the market in more than 50 years, that is, until now. In March of this year, the FDA approved Benlysta, an injectable drug designed to relieve symptoms like flare-ups and pain that are associated with lupus.

On Sept. 17, at Festival Park in Fayetteville, at least 700 walkers are going to attend the Third Annual Walk for Lupus Now: Fayetteville, in order to celebrate the latest development in treatment for lupus and bring about awareness of the disease. A one to three mile walk around downtown Fayetteville and Festival Park, family fun, food and activities are just a few of the things that will be on the agenda.

Karen McLeod is one of the many faces that will be in attendance, and one of the many faces of those whose lives have been affected by lupus. Mcleod was diagnosed with lupus six years ago, when she was only 20-years-old and in her sophomore year in college. Her participation and support for the event stems from her desire to increase awareness about lupus and other chronic diseases.

“I support Walk for Lupus because it gives me a chance to encourage, inspire and educate friends, coworkers, family and others within my community about lupus. Supporting the walk also allows me to become a face to others that have recently been diagnosed.” McLeod said.

The latest breakthrough in medical treatment is just cause for celebration for those who have been diagnosed with lupus in the past, present, and even in the future. Benlysta gives hope that more research will be made to eventually produce a cure for lupus.

But until then, Christine John-Fuller, president and CEO of The Lupus Foundation of America, Piedmont Chapter, wants to make sure that this year’s walk proceeds top last year’s goal of $32,000. All monies raised during the Walk for Lupus Now: Fayetteville will go to benefit the Lupus Foundation of America.

“Every year our walk sees incredible growth as public awareness about lupus increases. The result are proceeds that are critical to fund our national research initiatives, free patient services, including workshops, support groups, teleconferences, financial assistance, phone support and our patient-navigation program,” said John-Fuller.

Lupus is a complicated disease that is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed within the medical field. It affects women more often than men, and women of color are more likely to be struck with lupus than any other.

“I think it’s important to remember that when it comes to lupus there is a misconception that no one that we know has it. With 1.5 million Americans currently living with lupus, it’s a lot more common than people think,”she continued.

Living with lupus doesn’t mean that life is over. Keeping a positive attitude and having a good support system goes a long way when it comes to managing a disease that remains to be one of the least researched, least acknowledged and least funded conditions to date.

McLeod sums it up best when she comments on how she has overcome many of the challenges that come with a diagnosis of lupus.

“As a 26-year-old woman, I don’t look at having lupus as a handicap, but as a stepping stone that has allowed me to accomplish incredible things.”

To find out more information about lupus and how you can register and participate in the Walk for Lupus Now: Fayetteville, call 1-877-849-82

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