'Lupus will not defeat me' - Eaton McKoy still fighting, 23 years after diagnosis
The current fall in weather temperature leading to cooler days may be welcomed news for most Jamaicans, but not for Eaton McKoy.
The 58-year-old, who was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in 1992, said yesterday that his journey has been taxing, both physically and emotionally.
"When it comes to this time of the year, I get very uncomfortable, because I tend to feel a lot of pain. My knees feel out of place, and it is very painful," McKoy told journalists during a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the company's North Street offices in Kingston yesterday.
"My joints get very weak and my ankles are swollen. Every year, I have to get myself in the frame of mind to endure the challenges."
Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease caused by autoimmunity. Patients with lupus have in their blood unusual antibodies that are targeted against their own body tissues. Lupus can cause disease of the skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, joints, and nervous system.
McKoy vividly recalled the day he got the news.
"I didn't have a clue as to what it was about, and so when the doctor told me that I had lupus, I burst into tears," he recalled.
"I remember my face couldn't stop scratching me, and when I went to the first doctor, he said it was a regular rash, but it got worse over time. It was when I visited another doctor, I was told that I had the disease," he said.
Twenty-three years later, McKoy, an electrician, indicated that while the disorder is not a death sentence, it has been a testing period, especially financially.
"Without the health card, I spend up to $12,000 on medication on a monthly basis. With the health card, I spend maybe $6,000. Therefore, because of the expenses, I have to find other ways to hustle and earn an income in order to survive," he said.
This journey, he said, has also been taking a toll on his family, especially his 25-year-old son.
"There are times when I am taking my tablets and he would just stare at me. By the time I look again, his eyes are watery, so I know he is taking it very hard. Other times, he'll ask me if I have to take it every day, and I say 'yes', then he just walks away," said the father of two.
"My worst days are when I'm sitting or in bed and have to get up. It is very painful and usually leads me to tears. There are days I just lock away in my bathroom or somewhere private and just cry because it's a lot of discomfort. Nobody sees me, but I do have my days," he said.
Despite the ongoing agony, he said: "I will not be daunted, I am determined to fight because it will not defeat me."