Mayor Cunningham proclaimed May as Lupus Awareness Month in Blount County at his office on May 2. Brenda Reagan and Harry Farmer, volunteer facilitators for the Blount County Lupus Support Group, were present.
Reagan said she began the Blount County support group because she received so much help and support from the Knoxville group when she was first diagnosed.
“When I was first diagnosed in 1993, I joined a support group in Knoxville, and I was helped a lot by that. I found it very helpful to meet other people who had dealt with or were dealing with the initial shock of being diagnosed with Lupus. The diagnosis usually brings about a lifestyle change. It was encouraging meeting others who were living successfully with Lupus,” she said.
According to the Website www.lupus.org, Lupus is an autoimmune disease affecting various body parts including skin, joints, heart, lungs, blood, kidneys and brain. With Lupus, the immune system can’t tell the difference between foreign substances and the body’s own cells and tissues. The immune system then makes antibodies that are directed against itself. These antibodies cause inflammation, pain and can damage various parts of the body.
“People who have Lupus look fine on the outside. They don’t look sick. It’s a disease that affects the inside,” said Reagan.
Early diagnosis is critical, said Reagan. “It’s real important people know the symptoms. A lot of people will think you just need more rest, or you’re getting older, need to exercise more, eat right. Sometimes it’s difficult to get a diagnosis. I finally had to insist I be tested for it,” she said.
Lupus can affect any part of the body and the most common symptoms are achy joints, fever over 100 degrees, arthritis and swollen joints, prolonged or extreme fatigue, skin rashes, anemia, kidney problems, pain in the chest upon deep breathing, a butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose, sun or light sensitivity, hair loss, blood clotting problems, Raynaud’s phenomenon, seizures and mouth or nose ulcers according to the Web site.
For most people, Lupus is a mild disease affecting only a few organs but for others, it may cause serious and life-threatening problems. “Any time you have a loss of any kind, you go through stages of grieving. You have to come to an acceptance of it. I had to go through the stages of grieving the loss of what I thought was being a healthy person. The mental image of a healthy person was replaced with the fact that I had a chronic disease that wasn’t curable,” said Reagan.
Reagan stressed the importance of early diagnosis. Before she was diagnosed, she attended a health fair and saw a brochure on Lupus. When she read the flier she realized that the symptoms described how she had been feeling. “Had it not been for the health fair and a friend making me aware, I’m not sure how long I’d have gone (without a diagnosis),” she said.
The Blount County Lupus Support Group is beginning its third year. They meet monthly except for June, July, August and December. The next meeting is a picnic scheduled for Sept. 6 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Greenbelt Pavilion behind the Blount County Courthouse. Future meetings are October 19 and November 16 at the Blount County Public Library. All meetings are open to the public.
For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 865-983-5401. For more information about Lupus, visit www.lupus.org or www.lupustennessee.org.
Blount Memorial presents Boot Scootin’ Bonanza
The Blount Memorial Cancer Center and the Blount Memorial Foundation present “Boot Scootin’ Bonanza,” a Cancer Survivors Day celebration on Sunday, June 1 from 12:30-3:30 p.m. at Springbrook Park in Alcoa.
WATE-TV Channel 6 news anchor Gene Patterson will emcee the afternoon of food, fellowship and fun. Scheduled events include an old-fashioned family barbecue, inspirational guest speakers, live boot scootin’ music, children’s activities, giveaways, and special recognition and gifts for cancer survivors.
The event is free and open to the community.