Lupus survivor relates her story


I’m here to shed some light and give everyone more information regarding lupus,” said JaNelle Alexander, a 25-year lupus survivor.

The Lupus Awareness Forum held on Oct. 8 is located in the Student Theater on the second floor of the John Garrick Hardy Center. The speaker for this event is JaNelle Alexander, who is passionate about sharing her education for lupus patients to live their best life.

The forum host, Tyler Rice, executive vice president of programs for the University Programs and Activities Board (UPAAB), opens the event and introduces Alexander. Once she takes the floor, she gives insight into her own personal story and how she was diagnosed with systemic lupus as a 14-year old girl.

“I was fortunate to have been diagnosed so young, while that’s not always the case with other patients,” said Alexander.

Alexander explains that systemic lupus is a progressive disease that can attack one’s skin, kidneys or joints. The first symptom that presented itself in Alexander’s case is joint pain. By the time she had received one of her final symptoms, she had already seen several specialists. Her dermatologist solved the final piece of the puzzle, discovering she has lupus after requesting a biopsy on a rash she had developed.

After being diagnosed, Alexander says she was referred to a rheumatologist because they treat autoimmune diseases such as lupus. She’s had several surgeries on her legs due to vasculitis, an open heart surgery, and is currently on roughly 10-15 medications daily for various things. While lupus does not discriminate, Alexander notes that lupus is a disease that primarily attacks women of color.

After Alexander shares her story, the floor is opened for questions. Kenneth A. Dean, student media coordinator and acting director of student life, asked a few: “Is there a trait involved? How would you know you need to go to a rheumatologist?”

“You have to be referred to a rheumatologist, but there isn’t a trait that anyone knows of. There is actually a lot still being discovered about lupus, which is why we host different fundraisers to raise awareness and increase funding for research. However, since my 45 year-old aunt has it, and she is just now been diagnosed, it could be something dormant in your body that is triggered,” said Alexander.

“This lupus awareness forum was very informative, especially for those who don’t really know anything about the disease. I came to this forum because I have a 17 year-old friend who has lupus, who wasn’t aware until her Mom was sure something wasn’t right,” said Asjah Bell, freshman and business management major from Columbus, Mis.

Brieanna Williams, junior and history major from Tuskegee, Ala., notes how interesting the forum is and why she wished it was longer: “I wish more students would have attended this forum because it was not only informative, but it was interesting. My best friend was actually diagnosed with lupus a month ago. It was interesting to learn someone else’s story.”

Tyler Rice, sophomore and finance major from Mobile, Ala., explains the importance of hosting a forum like this one: “There was a need to spread awareness about this disease, which predominantly affects people of color. This forum was significant because diseases like lupus are often not talked about, which is why I look forward to hosting more awareness forums in the future.”