Lupus survivor Kimberly Williams didn’t think she would be alive, but she is and will be joining her friend Therese Green and the Lupus Foundation of Southern California at the African American Firefighters Museum on June 7 to raise funds and bring awareness to the disease that is most prominent in African American and Asian women.
The symptoms came in variety of ways, and the early diagnosis was as mixed as simple tendinitis to back pain for Williams of Los Angeles.
A 1985 graduate of Fremont High School, Williams went on to El Camino College in Torrance and then ultimately UCLA in Westwood.
Her dreams of a full American life as a mother, wife and friend were all in full swing until May of 2005.
That’s when a diagnosis revealed that she suffered from Lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when the body's immune system attacks its own tissues and organs.
Her husband, Deron Williams (Chief of Staff to Council President Herb Wesson), had taken his wife to Kaiser where she is employed to discover why his lovely wife and active mother of his children was experience an excruciating pain that radiated along her lower back, down her hips and the back of her legs.
The visits to Kaiser had become constant, but the Lupus had yet to be determined.
During a day of shooting hoops in the backyard with her son Deron Jr., she woke the next day and could not lift her arms.
“That’s when my husband took me in so that they could do the proper blood work,” Williams explained.
She returned home after the blood work and then received a phone call from Kaiser.
Kaiser requested that she come back in immediately, and while her husband was still at work she drove herself to the West Los Angeles facility and was told her fate.
“My first thoughts were that I was going to die,” she recalled. “I am not going to live long,” she pondered then.
Her husband and other concerned family members requested she obtain a second medical opinion, but the results were conclusive.
She thought about her children, Deron (22), Evette Williams (26) and mostly her young daughter Kayla (12).
“I was determined to be here for my young daughter,” Williams said.
The inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems — including 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 — a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks — occurs in many but not all cases of lupus.
Some people are born with a tendency toward developing lupus, which may be triggered by infections, certain drugs or even sunlight. While there's no cure for lupus, treatments can help control symptoms.
Black women have very high rates of lupus, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Most of the young women are in the prime of their careers, family and fertility, which results in a severely compromised future, with a disease that waxes and wanes, affecting every aspect of daily living for the rest of their lives.
Since being diagnosed with Lupus, Williams’ life has drastically been transformed. She must take some 12 pills each day.
She’s been on blood thinners for up to six months, suffered blood clots, lost up to 50 pounds, had surgery on both hips and the right hip removed, but she is alive.
“Lupus can be more severe than people think and it is a suffering disease,” she explained.
Green, who is the wife of Black Firefighter Johnny Green, is diagnosed with a discoid form of Lupus and while not as severe as Williams,’ it is just a complicated.
“I’ve known Kim for 10 years and the most discouraging thing about Lupus is that no one can tell you when you develop it,” Green added.
Green, who is Asian, says that she still has not received a confirmed diagnosis of Lupus, but suffers from its symptoms.
Her symptoms began when she was 15, but were not acute until the age of 36.
Together the two Lupus survivors will host a fundraiser that the African American Firefighters Museum located on Central Ave. as symbols of hope and beacons of courage that there is life to be lived with a disease, which often is fatal.