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Lisa Bilodeau sharing challenges about lupus with a few hundred women in the Burlington and Hamilton-Wentworth communities.

Increasing Awareness,100 Women at a Time
by Lisa Bilodeau

As a lupus warrior and an engaged member in my local community, I had the opportunity to shine a light on the challenges about lupus with a few hundred women in the Burlington and Hamilton-Wentworth communities.

“You know me as a member and leader of 100+ Women Who Care Burlington.

Sometimes you see me limp, wear knee braces or walk with a cane. But at other times you wouldn’t know that I have an invisible disability.

I am lupus warrior.”

Thus began my speech to women who are committed to learning about charities that serve their region and the issues these charities support.

“My career in advertising was cut short 8 years ago when I was hospitalized for the second of many bouts of pericarditis, a symptom of lupus attacking my heart. The diagnosis of this unrelenting disease of lupus changed the course of my life. At first I was just trying to survive and have my body stop trying to attack me. In time, with incredible doctors, rounds of medications and treatments, I got better and I began to find purpose again, through volunteering and philanthropy.

While you see me here in person 4 times a year, these meetings take a lot of my energy and I have to rest in the days leading up to and after these meetings so that my body does not rebel! The rest of the time I am communicating with you virtually, I am often doing so from the comfort of my bed!

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any organ in the body making lupus difficult to diagnose.

  • Lupus is a condition that takes on average 6 years to diagnose as there are a multitude of possible symptoms/markers.
  • It usually requires 5-6 physicians to receive a diagnosis. (At one point I had 14 care practitioners I was seeing.)
  • 90% of those diagnosed with lupus are women of childbearing age.
  • Lupus development is 3-4x higher in Black, Indigenous & Hispanic communities.
  • When you have one autoimmune disease, the likelihood of having another increases. 25% of people living with an autoimmune disease have multiple diseases. (I have 4 autoimmune diseases, with Lupus being the primary disease.)
  • Autoimmunity is now one of the most common disease categories ahead of cancer and heart disease.”

100 Women Who Care are giving circles in which all members commit to donating to one chosen charity at each meeting. Pooling the donations from their entire membership in one evening creates a large impact – usually resulting in $10,000+ donated. In addition to the funding available is the awareness opportunity afforded by sharing our stories and commitment to the lupus community with a large network of empowered women.

“Lupus is underfunded and under researched. We need to learn more about this systemic disease. Studying a disease affecting only one area of the body helps treat that area, but studying a systemic disease, such as lupus, provides knowledge and treatment for multiple systems of the body.

You may not know someone with lupus (except me) but you probably know someone with rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, Chron’s, colitis, Sjögren’s, celiac, heart disease, kidney disease, or cancer. All these diseases and more have benefitted from systemic research on lupus and other systemic diseases.”

Thank you, 100+ Women Who Care Burlington, for choosing Lupus Ontario as the Charity of Choice for April, providing funding for the launch of a new support group servicing our region and for supporting the Lupus Ontario Anne Matheson Biobank located at the McMaster Lupus Clinic in Hamilton.

Thank you, 100+ Women Who Care Hamilton-Wentworth, for providing the opportunity to bring awareness and share how we can make a difference to maybe one day help people like me live Life Without Lupus.

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