Lupus: Black Women’s Quiet and Deadly Enemy

Kristie Moore (left) wears a t-shirt of friend Nicole McBride. McBride passed away from lupus. /

By Dennis J. Freeman

Los Angeles-Louise Dodson broke into tears as she tried to describe what it is like to have lupus. Dodson has had lupus for 18 years. Most of those 18 years have been pain-free for Dodson. Lately, however, symptoms of the incurable disease, such as aches, muscle pain and exhaustion, have raised its ugly head.

Dodson, who came out to participate in a recent Lupus Foundation of America walkathon in Los Angeles to bring more awareness to lupus, didn’t know anything about the disease when she was first diagnosed as having it.    

“I am learning more and more,” said Dodson.  “Being a patient of lupus…it carries you through a lot. I want to be part of the cause to help solve the cause. It’s been dormant in me for a long time. I was feeling fine…the pain wasn’t coming. But the last three years I’ve really been experiencing an episode.”

Dodson isn’t alone. Elora Young’s mother was taken away from her by lupus after going into retirement.  Kristie Moore saw her college buddy and longtime friend wither away and die from lupus at the young age of 37.

Three lives. Three stories. Three endings with the same results: lupus attacks and eventually kills. For black women, lupus is three times more likely to be prevalent in them than in white women. According to Lupus Foundation of America statistics, women in general make up nine out of 10 lupus victims.

Most of the people who come down with lupus happen to be young folks between the ages 15 to 44. Nicole McBride was one of those young victims of lupus. McBride found out she had lupus at 18. Moore said she was with her friend when McBride received the news.

“We didn’t know what it was,” said Moore. “We didn’t know that lupus was such a deadly disease.”

Moore and her friend would soon find out. McBride came down with diabetes. Her kidney failed. Both of her legs eventually had to be amputated. Moore, who attended the lupus walkathon fundraising event at Los Angeles Exposition Park with a sister, said it was difficult watching someone that close to her suffer the way her friend did.

She’s determined to help bring more attention to lupus. More importantly, she wants to remember the strength and courage McBride showed in her times of pain and duress.

“She was a strong person,” Moore said. “She was vibrant. Even with this disease, it didn’t stop her from doing anything. She tried to make other people happy. She was a beautiful singer. She had a beautiful voice.”

Elora Young shows off a photo of her late monther at the Lupus Foundation of America’s walkathon at Exposition Park in Los Angeles./

According to LFA, there are at least 1.5 million people in the United States that have lupus. Another five million people across the globe have the disease, which can attack internal organs such as the heart, lungs, kidneys and cell tissues.

Young, who lost her mother 10 years ago to lupus, is familiar with the disease. Her best friend’s sister has lupus. She also had a cousin who passed away from it as well. She’s now worried that she may someday come down with it. For now, though, Young wants to get more educated about lupus and help spread the word about what the disease can do to other people.

“I’m here because my mom passed from Lupus,” Young said. “I’m here to get more educated about it. There’s a possibility that I can have lupus. My mother had the kind (of lupus) where she looked but she didn’t feel good. My mother was a fighter and she fought to the very end.

“It hides behind high blood pressure, diabetes. You don’t even know you have it until you’re in an exhaustive state. It makes you very tired. My mother discovered she had lupus at 58. She had just retired from Rockwell International and was getting ready to live her life.”

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