Sat | Jun 6, 2020

Claudine Martin joins the lupus fight

Published:Wednesday | May 13, 2020 | 12:15 AMVanessa James/Gleaner Writer
Sgt Claudine Martin
Sgt Claudine Martin

With May being observed as Lupus Awareness Month, we continue to shed light on the experiences of those around the world living with the illness which affects people in various forms.

Exactly four years ago (May 2016), Claudine Martin got the news that she will have to live the rest of her life with an illness that cannot be cured – lupus. For many, that news would have brought despair, but Martin was not deterred and decided to make small changes in order to keep her life as normal as possible. The Jamaican living in the United Kingdom as a sergeant with the Ministry of Defence of the British army shared with The Gleaner when she first noticed changes.

“It first started in November of 2015, when I realised that when I am training with the boys, I am falling behind, and when I am carrying weight, I am a bit weaker, and I thought maybe I have reached the peak of my fitness so I need to do more,” she explained. “I moved to another location the following January, and that’s when I started experiencing night sweats every night, then hair loss, skin rashes, joint pains and extreme fatigue where no matter how much rest you get or how much you sleep, it was just not enough.”

Martin disclosed that she is the only one in her family with lupus, and that so far, her two children have not shown any signs of the illness. Compared to what others go through, she feels lucky because she is currently on only one medication, but also believes that a positive outlook on life has definitely helped her deal with this chronic illness.

“I still have the occasional mild symptoms, nothing major – but I don’t look at it like, ‘oh my God, I have an illness that I have to live with for the rest of my life’. I just try and stay positive because I believe everything happens for a reason, and it’s already here, but it is not the end of the world,” she said.

She did take note, however, of her rheumatologist’s warning that lupus is unpredictable, where one minute the patient is OK and the next, there is a flare-up which can land the patient in trouble. Martin explained that she feels extremely blessed because in the four years of having lupus, she has not been hospitalised due to any symptoms or had to take sick days from work.

To help with staying healthy, she has made changes in her life, but revealed that support is integral when living with lupus.

“I do a lot of exercise, I monitor what I eat as well, and have a fairly healthy lifestyle, and I also stopped drinking alcohol when I was diagnosed,” Martin shared. “It is also very important that your friends and family are educated about lupus so they can understand you and support you better.”

Since being diagnosed, Martin volunteers on weekends at the local hospital to share with lupus patients and uplift them. She also hosts an annual charity event, which, due to the pandemic, has been cancelled this year, where those from the army and her other friends come out and run a 10K race with her, and the proceeds go to the Lupus UK Charity.

vanessa.james@gleanerjm.com