This post was originally published on Defender Network

By Laura Onyeneho

Kennetra Searcy is Miss Black USA 2017, a fitness enthusiast and certified personal trainer who loved sports and was active in school and made staying in shape the main priority for her overall health.

She isn’t a stranger to tackling challenges but life gave her a rude awakening that changed the trajectory of her health. She was diagnosed with lupus in 2015.

It all started when she was pregnant with her first daughter and endured the pains of a high-risk pregnancy, hair loss, sensitivity to sunlight, preeclampsia, and painful joints.

“Being pregnant and having lupus felt like a death sentence. I never knew what lupus was and of course, I was thinking of the worse possible negative things in life,” she said. “…I had to do my research to learn more about and figure out how I can also support others who may be going through this too.”

On Saturday, May 7, Searcy along with her team of friends and supporters will gather at Texas Southern University’s campus for the Lupus Foundation of America’s Texas Gulf Coast Chapter’s “Walk to End Lupus NOW” event during National Lupus Awareness Month to raise awareness and funds to improve the quality of life and access to resources for families. 

The organization will partner with TSU’s communication department to provide scholarships to students to create stories around lupus and how it impacts their families. 

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects a person’s internal organs such as joints, kidneys, heart, or kidneys. According to the Lupus Foundation, an estimated 1.5 million Americans have the disease. Black women are three times more likely to have the disease than white women. Diagnosing it can be difficult because there isn’t a definitive test. 

“Lupus can present itself in what is known as a butterfly rash across the bridge of the nose and cheeks. On a Caucasian person you can see that pretty easily, but what if it were a dark-skinned person?” said Anne Marie Blacketer, chief executive officer of the Lupus Foundation of America Texas Gulf Coast Chapter.

“Self-advocacy, educating our physicians on how to listen with empathy, and encouraging more people of color to participate in the four lupus trials in Houston are the biggest takeaways from this.”

After some digging into her and her husband’s medical history, Searcy learned that her aunt had lupus and her husband’s grandmother died from it also.

“My aunt found out she had lupus in her forties,” she said. “It made me realize that I had this all my life and it wasn’t until I got pregnant that my body actually sounded the alarm.” 

There is no cure for lupus but that hasn’t stopped Searcy from finding alternative ways outside of medication to improve her health. She tries different remedies such as doTERRA Essential oils and medical marijuana.

Searcy will serve as this year’s event chair along with another lupus survivor Kellie Poe, Prairie View A&M alum and founder of Black Millennials Mental Health.

For more information visit: https://www.lupus.org/texasgulfcoast