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Providing Answers, Support and Hope in Georgia
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Thirty-One Faces of Hope: Arika Hightower

The lupus community includes people living with lupus, friends, family and supporters across Georgia. For Lupus Awareness Month, we would like to highlight some of our lupus heroes and champions. 

Arika Hightower

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I have to admit lupus was a disease I was not always familiar with.  I knew it impacted the immune system, but was unaware of the actual effects it had on a person until 2010. My best friend, Detra, who is like a sister to me was diagnosed with lupus in 2010. At the time, all I knew was that it made my friend experience extreme fatigue and swelling in her in her hands, legs and feet. 

Detra began hosting walks to bring awareness to the Columbus area about the disease. Quite naturally, her friends including myself wanted to support her as much as possible.  Little did we know what Detra had to go through. If anyone knows Detra, then you are well aware that she is a very humble, hard-working, and a definite go-getter. 

Translation, she wanted to do everything herself. While we would meet as a group to brainstorm fundraising ideas, Detra was the one making sure there were booths, banners and enough materials for every event. She worked hard to make each walk a success. After each event, I noticed Detra would be resting a lot. She seemed to need more rest than the rest of the group. I still did not understand how lupus was affecting her body.

Once the Georgia Chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America became involved in the efforts, our group began attending symposiums where medical professionals would provide information about lupus to include facts on the symptoms and side effects related to the disease. Through this I learned a great deal about how anyone living with this disease is impacted. Armed with this information, I began to do some research of my own. 

I wanted to understand more about Detra’s condition and began to ask her about her medications and how they made her feel. That was when I really learned what was going on with my sister. She was always running around to meet someone regarding fundraising, trying to find locations to host events, prepping food for events and staying up late to get things done. Not to mention, what was done the day of the walk.  While doing it all, I never knew what she was actually dealing with. 

When I think about the flare-ups that she endures as a result of doing what comes naturally to most of us,  I can’t help but want to help her more.  My thought is maybe, just maybe, by doing more I can take some of the work and stress off her so she can take time to rest and know that things are being handled. After watching Detra receive her diagnosis and deal with the effects of this disease all while working so hard to educate others, I could not help but become passionate about providing emotional support to my dear friend. 

-Arika Hightower