It’s been almost 30 years since Maxine Williams-Leon was diagnosed with lupus. For most of those years, she has struggled with harsh effects of the systemic autoimmune disease.
“I was really sick for about 20 years,” she said.
But the more she learned about lupus, something started to change.
“I finally started understanding about my health,” she said. “Now I’m starting to handle the pain.”
She’s not alone. In Sts’ailes where she lives, there seems to be a pocket of lupus diagnoses. Her daughter has been diagnosed, and several other residents as well.
And since Williams-Leon is starting to feel better, she said she felt moved to do something positive for her community and all lupus patients. So, she joined forces with the B.C. Lupus Society’s administration coordinator, Val Bishop, and launched Sts’ailes’ first Do it For Lupus Walk. Similar walks have been held around the province, including Hope and Sechelt, Bishop said.
She was thrilled to see a turnout of more than 40 people at the Sts’ailes walk on Saturday morning. They gathered at the fish hatchery for the four kilometre walk.
“This is wonderful,” Bishop said. “Lupus has an incidence rate of 1 in 1,000 but there are pockets were the rate is much higher and this is one of the areas.”
All the money raised from the walks goes directly toward research being done in this province by Dr. Antonio Aviña at UBC. He is working on finding the connection between lupus and communities where the rates are higher, such as Sts’ailes.
Lupus is an acute chronic autoimmune disease which attacks any organ of the body in unpredictable ways. Diagnosis is difficult because symptoms vary between individuals, and the disease remits and relapses. Delay in diagnosis can lead to organ failure and sometimes death.
Lupus belongs in the family of diseases that includes rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, juvenile diabetes, and scleroderma.
The most common type of lupus is SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus). It is a complex and baffling condition that can target any tissue or organ of the body, including skin, muscles, joints, blood and blood vessels, lungs, heart, kidneys, and the brain.
To learn more, visit www.bclupus.org.