Fall 2011 - Barbi Manchester
On a beautiful sunny morning in September 2011, more than 120 walkers gathered at the high school football stadium in Mt. Airy, NC, for the first-ever Mayberry’s Butterfly Walk for Lupus. The walk was the dream project of 32-year-old Barbi Manchester, and she’d spent almost a year organizing it. Together Barbi’s supporters raised nearly $12,000 for the Piedmont Chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America.
Barbi was thrilled with the success of the event. “It felt really good because I’ve never really done any thing like this before, and the amount of people, this being a first time walk and the way the economy is, I was very happy.”
It was the second time that Barbi, a single mom who has been living with lupus for four years, has made history on that field. The first was in 1994, when she joined the Mt. Airy High School Granite Bears football team as a kicker.
“I was the first female to be a kicker for the team, and I actually held some of the records for longest field goals, which stood until just a few years ago.”
Barbi spent three years on the football team, and as a senior was ranked seventh out of 400 high school place kickers in the state. In 1997 she was honored with the Governor’s Award for Women in Sports.
“I felt really good about that, especially for playing football- that was unheard of.”
It was tough being the only female on an all-male team, but Barbi believes the experience helped prepare her for a much bigger challenge: the fight against lupus. Barbi was diagnosed in 2007.
“I hurt constantly. The skin was coming off my hands, and my hair started falling out. I wasn’t able to go outside I was extremely sensitive to the sun,” she recalls today.
She remembers that she spent most of her time on the living room couch. “My bedroom was upstairs and I couldn’t go up one flight of steps just to go to bed. I was just extremely fatigued, and I suffered extreme weight loss.”
Doctors prescribed prednisone, Plaquenil®, and methotrexate. Then Barbi found out she was pregnant, and she stopped all medications. Her physicians gave her a 50-50 shot at having a successful pregnancy, but son Corbin was born with no complications in January of 2009. Barbi says that her lupus symptoms improved dramatically while she was pregnant. “I was able to gain weight, and I didn’t feel like I was in constant pain.”
The following fall, Barbi’s doctors at the Duke Lupus Clinic asked her to participate in a trial for the drug investigational lupus drug, Lupuzor™. She received her first intravenous treatment in December of 2010. Today, she says, “I feel the best I have in years. I feel like I did in my early 20s.”
Barbi decided to organize the walk after she began to feel better, and is so thrilled with its success that she’s already planning next year’s event. She’s busy lining up help and sponsors, and is also planning a beach bash for lupus awareness month in May. Her goal for 2012 is to raise more than $15,000. “I want to get the word out,” Barbi explains, “to prevent people from having to go through the bad experiences that I’ve gone through, and to hopefully find a cure.”