Julie Hanft was just 17 when she knew something was wrong.
She began suffering muscle issues and fatigue, leading to the removal of some muscle and two right ribs in the hopes of improving circulation problems unknowingly caused by Lupus.
“The principal brought my high school diploma to the hospital,” she says.
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Now at age 59, she is physically disabled by the disease but has found her calling writing and sharing information about the illness. Her diagnosis came after years of heart issues, high blood pressure, lung pain and kidney failure.
“Finally, a young doctor in Urgent Care did blood work and a skin biopsy,” Hanft said. “Everything came back SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus). By the time I was diagnosed, I had a lot of organ involvement.”
Despite chronic illness, the Blaine resident is undaunted. Her book, “Rising Above the Pain,” is a testament to her determination.
“I believe we are all capable of learning to rise above the pain”, Hanft says, putting faith in God, her 34-year marriage, her children, grandchildren, positivity and humor.
“We are stronger than we think. Don’t stop living”, she urges. “Take all the energy you have and put it into something positive in your life. Everyone has a journey waiting for them.”
Ten Things to Know About Lupus
1 There are several types of “Lupus”, a Latin term meaning “I wolf,” referring to bite-like skin lesions on the face or body. The chronic autoimmune disease tends to last longer than six weeks and often for many years, with flare ups where symptoms are worse and then improve.
▪ The most common type of Lupus, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) affects many parts of the body and can cause skin sores on parts of the body exposed to sun.
▪ Drug-induced Lupus can be caused by the medications hydralazine, procainamide, and Isoniazid.
▪ Discoid Lupus causes skin lesions that can leave permanent scars. (Seal- the singer, has a scarred face from DLE)
▪ Neonatal lupus – a rare type of lupus that affects newborns. Symptoms may go away after a few months.
2 SLE symptoms can include exhaustion, headaches, muscle pain, painful or swollen joints, fever, anemia, chest pain, a rash across cheeks and nose, hair loss, abnormal blood clotting, kidney failure and more. “Because it attacks the organs, death is a lot more common than most realize,” Hanft says.
3 Nine out of 10 cases occur in women, however, men, children and teenagers can develop lupus. Most people develop the disease between ages 15 and 44, although older people can get it, too. Men are more likely to die from it.
4 Certain ethnic groups (people of African, Asian, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Island descent) have a two or three times greater genetic risk of lupus then Caucasians, although people of any race can have it.
5 The exact cause of Lupus is still a mystery, though many believe if you have a predisposition to the disease, environmental exposures or emotional stress may trigger an episode or “flare.”
6 Lupus is sometimes called “the great imitator” because its symptoms can mimic blood disorders, diabetes, thyroid problems, Lyme disease and a number of heart, lung, muscle and bone diseases. Nearly everyone with SLE has fibromyalgia. Rheumatoid Arthritis also is an auto-immune disease.
7 Lupus is not contagious, not even through sexual contact. You cannot “catch” lupus from someone or “give” lupus to someone.
8 It is not related to cancer or HIV Aids, but it features your immune system attacking itself.
9 There are 58,000 cases in Washington state alone. More than 16,000 new cases of lupus are reported annually across the country, and there are probably five million active cases worldwide. Complete remission is rare.
10 Lupus can range from mild to life-threatening and should always be treated by a doctor. “There is a misconception of how critical this disease is,” Hanft said. “Because of organ involvement, there is a lot of high risk with this disease. Also, joint replacement due to Arthritis is common with SLE. People at best live in a very painful world and get minimal relief with available medications.”
“Rising Above the Pain”
By: Julie Hanft
Published: Mascot Books
Available: at amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and in their stores, booksamillion.com, mascotbooks.com and Family Bible Book Store/Lynden
A percentage of book sales go to the Lupus Foundation to help find a cure.
Information about the disease may be found at lupus.org.
Find information and support group information at lupus.org/pacificnorthwest/pages/support-groups