By Tim Kelly
Most people have heard of lupus, but don’t necessarily know what it is.
That lack of knowledge can sometimes be an impediment in the diagnosis and treatment of the potentially deadly disease, which currently has no known cure.
“Lupus is what we call a masquerader because it attacks people in the prime of life and their symptoms can mimic conditions that aren’t serious,” said Cindy Messerle, CEO of the Lupus Foundation of America’s Tri-State Chapter.
The Chapter hopes to raise awareness about lupus as well as funds to be used for research and education at Sunday’s 11th Annual Walk to End Lupus Now event on the Ocean City Boardwalk.
Although online and mail-in registration for the walk ended, walk-up registration is welcomed beginning at 9 a.m. The walk itself steps off at 10 a.m. Signups take place at Sixth Street and the Boardwalk.
Participants have the option of a 2-kilometer or a 4k course. There is no charge to participate, however, those who donate or raise $100 will receive a T-shirt and those donating or raising $25 receive a cooling towel.
The event also features an educational program, kids games, music, food and drinks and a good morning of family-friendly fun, all for the benefit of wiping out a serious autoimmune system disease.
If that weren’t enough, participants might just help the Tri-State Chapter achieve a major event milestone.
Over the last decade, “the event has raised nearly $450,000,” Messerle said. She added she is hoping for 700 participants and a goal to raise $50,000.
Thus, if Ocean City residents and visitors come through and the goal is reached, Ocean City’s Walk to End Lupus Now will have raised more than a half-million dollars since its inception.
The Lupus Foundation of America calls the disease “the cruel mystery” because the average patient has suffered from the disease for six years before it is diagnosed – and also because the mystery of a cure has yet to be solved. It can attack virtually any organ, from the skin, to the brain, and potentially cause inflammation or even organ failure.
“Because it strikes people usually in the 15-44 age range, doctors look at a symptom, such as fatigue, and tell the patient they need to slow down or take a vacation,” Messerle said.
Meanwhile, the patient’s lupus is making its dangerous inroads. Researchers still haven’t figured out why, but lupus strikes mostly women, and people of color are two-thirds more likely to contract the disease.
Currently five million people suffer from lupus, an estimated 1.5 million in the United States. Messerle said the local chapter estimates 40,000 lupus sufferers live in the Tri-State area.
Representatives of that group will be among the walkers, she said.
“Many of the walkers participate in teams in the name of people who suffer or who have passed away from complications of lupus,” said Messerle, who joined the Chapter as its CEO last October.
“I used to be one of those people who didn’t have a personal connection.”
That changed, she said, when it was learned her son’s girlfriend had been diagnosed recently.
Several high-profile celebrities such as Toni Braxton and Nick Cannon suffer from lupus. Most recently, Selena Gomez underwent a kidney transplant and went public that she had the disease. As a result, more funds needed for research have been raised.
Messerle noted “promising and exciting research” is currently going on and the Ocean City community “should come out, enjoy a great morning and help us further to stop lupus.”