RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Now that the unofficial start of summer is here, a lot of us are excited about soaking up the sun. For many Lupus patients, though, this time of year can be especially aggravating to their condition that already causes so much pain.
Every day starts with several bottles of medications for Kelli King. “I take all these in the morning,” she counts out each pill, eight in all.
King first knew something was wrong after a beach vacation with her family seven years ago.
“After that trip, these hives and red bumps started forming everywhere and they itched and burned,” King remembers.
It took failed treatments and tests to finally get the right diagnosis: Lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease causing inflammation and damage to healthy organs and tissue.
“On the inside, your body is killing itself, it’s attacking itself,” says King. “I am in pain every day. When they tell you the scale from 1 to 10, I have learned to live with a 5 or 6, but there are some days to where I’m in bed, I’m stuck.”
There is no cure. Patients can only manage Lupus with medicine. King even has a port for monthly infusions. Eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water helps. The 36-year-old also thanks her husband and sons for being a strong support system while she battles constant symptoms.
“You would spend your life in these four walls, and a lot of people deal with depression,” King says of how grueling Lupus can be. “I have to really learn this Kelli. I have to let the other Kelly go. I have to learn to live with the Kelli with Lupus.”
King wants others to be aware that Lupus affects everyone in a different way and can mimic other diseases. For many, sun exposure makes it worse.
“I think a lot of people have symptoms and don’t really know what’s going on. It’s taken some people 10 years to be diagnosed with Lupus.”
It is why King talks to everyone she can about Lupus and urges other patients to join her in the fight.
“Be an advocate for yourself, and then bring awareness to Lupus. Bring a face to it.”
May is Lupus Awareness Month. People of all races, ethnic groups and ages can get Lupus, but it is most common in women of color who are 15 to 44-years-old. A combination of genes, hormones and environmental factors are believed to cause Lupus. Common symptoms are fatigue, headaches and a butterfly-shaped rash across the nose and cheeks.
There is support available for Lupus patients. Just follow this link for resources in the Richmond area.