HOMEPAGE: www.danieljvance.com

By Daniel J. Vance

Retta Plugge of Ord, Nebraska, reads this column in her local newspaper, the Ord Quiz. In 1998, she was diagnosed with lupus.

The Lupus Foundation of America website defines lupus as a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system, for unknown reasons, becomes hyperactive and attacks normal tissue. It affects about 1.5 million Americans, and nine times more women than men. Symptoms often come and go and vary according to the individual and the type of lupus, and may include a fever over 100 degrees, hair loss, sun sensitivity, rashes, arthritis, anemia and fatigue.

“I have breakouts, which some people call “flares,” she said in a telephone interview. “It's a rash on my chest or face that looks like a butterfly. I can't go outside in the sun unless I wear protective clothing. My hair is very thin. And I have to wear sunglasses because bright lights bother my eyes.”

In 1998, she had to quit working as a dispatcher (and other duties) for the Wheeler County sheriff's department because the stress aggravated her symptoms. Then due to arthritis she regularly began visiting a rheumatologist, who she credited with greatly improving her quality of life.

Counting everything, lupus has most affected her marriage and family.

“Lupus definitely put a strain on everything,” she said. “My daughter and husband were my support system. And he was as supportive as he could be.”

About three years ago, she and her husband divorced. “He was a very caring man,” she said. “But due to fatigue, I just couldn't do a lot of things anymore. Sometimes I couldn't fix supper. Taking a shopping trip often was out of the question. I couldn't attend many of our daughter's school activities. My husband did everything he could to get us through this, but we grew apart because I wasn't able to do many things he liked doing.”

That aside, she said that on the positive side lupus has made her a stronger person and significantly increased her faith. To avoid symptoms, she also has learned how to react calmly when facing stressful situations.

She concluded, “The main thing is to take care of your health. If you feel something is wrong physically, have it checked out. As for lupus, don't let it beat you down psychologically. Since stress brings on my flareups, I am now living for today only.”

For more, see www.lupus.org or danieljvance.com. (This column made possible by a grant from Blue Valley Sod, www.bluevalleysod.com)