We’ve Got Butterflies for Lupus Survivors
Updated: Oct 6
The spring and summer months tend to incite more hope for many people amidst the Covid-19 pandemic as April and May bring warmer weather and blooming flowers. Many people are fortunate to have survived the Coronavirus over the past three months considering the millions of Americans who have been affected and lost their lives to the virus. However, surviving Covid-19 isn’t the only challenge that people are proud to overcome. With May comes Lupus Awareness Month and survivors are proud to overcome lupus and live happy and healthy lives, in spite of a pandemic. Lupus Awareness Month, often symbolized by a purple butterfly, is an annual observance to bring awareness to Lupus and its impact on the lives of millions of individuals and families.
Lauren Simone Papillion, 26, has been living with Lupus for 6 years, after being diagnosed during her sophomore year in college. Papillion displayed early signs of lupus throughout her time in high school and up until college, but was misdiagnosed with thalassemia, Lyme disease, and even extreme anemia. Papillion earned her Bachelor of Science in Communication from Virginia State University and earned her Master of Professional Studies in Strategic Communications from Regent University.
“My initial reaction was like ‘Why me?’ Papillion said. “As if college wasn’t enough, I was taking 18 credit hours in classes, I was in the marching band as a dancer, and my mom was battling colon cancer all at the same time. It felt like a cloud over my life.”
Lupus is a systemic autoimmune disease that occurs when one’s body’s immune system attacks the tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems including the joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, and lungs. Lupus can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms often mimic those of other ailments. The most distinctive sign of lupus is a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks which occurs in many, but not all cases.
After learning of her diagnosis, Papillion took the necessary steps to make changes in her day-to-day routine to help with her battle against lupus. Typically, she is able to detect her flares and often experiences headaches, fatigue, joint pain, and hair loss. According to a report from Mayo Clinic, there are measures that can help prevent lupus flares and better cope with the symptoms including seeing a doctor regularly, exercising regularly, eating healthy and considering vitamin D and calcium supplements.
“I started with the medical route of treating my arthritis and I changed my diet,” Papillion said. “I could no longer drink any drinks with high sugar or salt content because the number one organ that is affected for me is my kidneys. Now that I understand my body and how to live with this, I make sure I get rest, eat well and hydrate. I’m always taking my vitamins and looking for holistic methods.”
Lupus affects 5 million people in the U.S. alone and yet many people are unaware of its devastating impact on the lives of the people it permeates. A report by Loud Cloud Health, 34 Illuminating Lupus Statistics to Help the Warriors, indicates that almost three-quarters of young Americans don’t know about lupus and its symptoms, 90% of people suffering from lupus are women, and lupus is two-three times more common in women of color.
“I really want to see more research and development methods being done to help find a cure,” Papillion said. “Lupus affects more minority women and mainly African American Women at a more aggressive rate. While symptoms are like other diseases, people should know about this one because it resembles a lot of the things African American women go through.”
Currently, Papillion works as a Communications Analyst for the Department of Defense. Alongside working full time, she owns three businesses under L. Simone Company, LLC: LSimoneCo PR, used for freelance website design, graphics design and business coaching; L. Simone Co: The Boutique, an online boutique for women; and T.I.N.Y. Jewelry Co. an online accessory shop and subscription company. In learning to live with Lupus, Papillion has become confident and fearless and conquers each day with a new mindset.
“I wake up with the attitude that I get the opportunity to live another day,” she said. “I am thankful that I am healthy and that I am able to do everything I set my mind to. Lupus does not define me and it’s not a burden. It’s something that is a part of my story.”
In closing, Papillion shares her advice for others who are suffering from lupus.
“Learn your triggers and listen to your body,” she advised. “Tell your doctor everything! If something is off or doesn’t seem normal, tell them. Always ask for your blood count and request to go over your results. Seek non-pharmaceutical methods to cure your symptoms: teas, natural vitamins, stress-relieving methods.”