By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
Zuriel Gibson is a warrior. Doctors said she wouldn’t live past the age of 24. She battled depression, pain and issues that placed her in the hospital. Nevertheless, the 42-year-old lupus survivor and advocate has battled the disease since she was first diagnosed right out of high school, in 1997. She currently runs a support network for those with lupus called The Gibson Lupus Autoimmune Resource Center.
When Gibson heard about GlaxoSmithKline hosting A Night of Beauty at Sephora West Village in Dallas Oct. 29, she took advantage of the evening of pampering.
The purpose of the pampering event was to educate and empower women of color living with lupus, an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks normal, healthy tissue. Symptoms of lupus can include inflammation, swelling, and damage to organs such as the joints, skin, kidneys, blood, heart and lungs.
“I came here tonight to meet new people, network with amazing people, and meet people I met on Facebook and just having a good time,” Gibson said. “I am supporting this event. We need to stick together because we do more together and unfortunately everybody is in their own world and it seems like they are are trying to peek their head out. Hopefully, with the campaign we have going, having people to come together hopefully there will be more awareness about lupus and what we can do together and not fight each other.”
Women of color are two to three times more likely to get lupus, according to Daemion Johnson, director of Patient Engagement for GSK Pharmaceuticals.
“Lupus disproportionately impacts women of color and 90 percent of people that are living with lupus are actually women. And although it is known as an invisible disease, some of the physical manifestations of the disease is a malar rash that can often be very challenging because it is often on the face. So, it presents some issues with discoloration and so makeup is often a way for women to be able to cover some of those blemishes. So, the thing about it is it is really not about the makeup but about self care,” Johnson said.
“That’s what this night is really about women who are living with lupus often times suffer in silence and isolation and so this is an opportunity for the lupus community to get together. We have representations from the healthcare industry, patient advocacy groups as well as actual patients and those supporting patients all coming together for a fun night to talk about lupus and show support and solidarity.”
The night included self-care tips and makeovers for lupus warriors and patients by Sephora beauty consultants, artists and ambassadors. There was also a panel discussion on lupus by health care experts.
Dallas is the latest stop for the Night of Beauty event hosted by GSK. Other stops included cities such as Atlanta, Washington D.C., Philadelphia and Chicago.
African American women are two to three times more likely than Caucasian women to develop lupus and women ages 15 to 44 are the greatest risk of developing lupus as well, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Dr. Bonnie Bermas, a rheumatologist, said lupus is underdiagnosed.
“There is a lack of awareness about the disease and it is really important for us to outreach to our lupus patients who do have a chronic disease and to have something for them to empower the patients,” Bermas said. “Lupus is a multisystem autoimmune disease and people can present themselves with a variety of side effects. Such as they can have skin involvement, blood count abnormalities, seizures, arthritis, kidney disease, and symptoms can range from very mild to where it rarely impacts them or occasionally they can have significant organ involvement and be quite ill.”
“It is a disease of women and disease of young women and peak incidents are between the second and fourth decade of life and particularly occurs at a high percentage of certain ethnic and minority groups like African Americans, Latinos, and Asians are all particularly vulnerable and often have worse disease.”
Bermas said one of the best tips to manage lupus is to find a health care provider that patients can trust and have confidence in that can work with them.
Keisha Johnson, another participant, was diagnosed with lupus eight years ago.
“It was a shock and a surprise to me when I was diagnosed,” Keisha said. “I had a fear about it, but I have been studying about it, and I’ve seen other people surviving and living and knowing that it is not the end of your life. I came because I rarely see lupus events maybe we will have a walk but it is not really recognized as I think it should be because a lot of people are dying from it. I felt like this was a great event to come to and I haven’t been to an event besides a walk.”
This was Keisha’s first makeover as well.
“I usually don’t wear makeup so this will be a good experience and I feel beautiful, it feels good and looks nice and I look different,” she said. “I hope to get together with lupus warriors and buy makeup.”
Johnson told the crowd that Dallas has a lot of enthusiastic lupus warriors.
“I have been with GSK for 22 years and the last two years I have been working on lupus and it is the most meaningful engagement work I have been involved in,” he said.
Johnson said he created the pampering event after seeing a social media post about 18 months ago of a husband who gave his wife who had lupus, a makeover at a Sephora store.
“The wife suffered from some skin pigmentation issues and she got a makeover and he posted a before and after shot of his wife,” Johnson said. “What resonated with me was that she was a different person and the makeover changed her internally and externally and I wanted to duplicate this for other women and that is how A Night of Beauty was formed.”
Other patient advocacy groups represented at the event were the Lupus Foundation of America and the Lupus Research Alliance. Other resources where patients can get more information about lupus and how to manage the disease is available at http://www.usinlupus.com.