From the shadow of death
Lupus almost took her life. Now she lives with lupus and teaches others about the disease.
By Kay Mimms
At the age of 59, about a year after retiring from a 32year career as a high school teacher and counselor, I was diagnosed with lupus after suffering from various symptoms my entire life. I grew up on a farm in North Carolina, the youngest of 18 children. Since I can remember, I have been sensitive to the cold. My hands and feet would feel like cold water was running through my veins. My skin 2007 family reunion: Off chemo would shrivel up like a raisin. almost one year, but still taking In the 1960s, I started ex- the steroid prednisone, which caused weight gain and “moonperiencing painful and swol- shaped” face. len joints and muscles. Later in life, my painful achy joints made me creep along like an old lady although I was just in my 40s. “Mom you look like an old lady,” my youngest daughter said one day. “I feel like an old lady,” I replied. Doctors would treat my symptoms but no one saw the whole picture. They treated me for a thyroid condition in the 1980s. A dermatologist dealt with the itchy and discolored blotches on my skin in the 90s. I endured a painful bone marrow test for cancer. I saw internist after internist and rheumatologists, but no one had an answer. By the end of 2005, I was losing more energy and suffering more joint and body pain. My husband, Cecil, knew something was very wrong when I went to take a nap as we were preparing our house for a large Christmas family gathering and I slept for five or six hours, missing the whole party. “That’s when I knew she was really ill,” Cecil said. By 2005, I was not only experiencing more pain and feeling 8
2006 Family Reunion: After 65 days in ICU, one month in rehab and four chemotherapy treatments for lupus.
very morning that I wake up, I thank God for being able to use the bathroom without having to wait for someone to take me. There was a time I would lay in the bed, my bladder about to burst, but unable to walk and only able to whisper. I would listen for the screeching sound of the blood pressure cart being pushed down the hall by the nurse’s aide. I had a catheter, but did not want to be embarrassed by dirtying my diaper. How much longer before she reaches my room? The thought screamed in my head but my voice was reduced to a whisper. For a month I went through rehabilitation, learning how to live again after almost dying. The Well Magazine / Winter 2012