After being diagnosed with lupus in 2010, graduate student Jackie Saunders said the disease took a toll on her appearance.
“I did not recognize the person looking back at me in the mirror, because the disease had morphed every inch of my outward appearance,” Saunders said.
To raise money for the disease, Saunders and her roommates are gearing up for a roughly 100-mile bike ride from the Sparty statue in East Lansing to the Michigan Lupus Foundation office in St. Clair Shores, Mich.
Following her diagnosis, Saunders suffered from harrowing joint pain, daily fevers and a rash that blistered and scarred her entire body.
No longer head-shaven and frail, Saunders said she has come a long a way and wants others to understand the rarely mentioned disease.
“Through this bike ride, we wanted to bring attention and awareness to help others recognize lupus,” said Saunders.
Executive director of The Michigan Lupus Foundation and MSU alumnus, Frank Mortl III, explained that lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks itself.
“Lupus affects 1.5 million Americans and there are 6,500 diagnosed patients in Michigan,” Mortl said.
The symptoms of lupus range from fever and rashes to organ failure and mortality. At this point, not many lupus-specific treatments exist.
“There is only one lupus-specific medication approved by the (Food and Drug Administration) and what we’re looking to help create are more lupus-specific therapies,” said Mortl.
Saunders said this bike ride was the brainchild of her two roommates, MSU alumnus Greg Ondrus and graduate student Pat Aderhold.
Aderhold said the idea for the bike ride was born in the winter.
“We wanted to do it at first as a way to get out of the house but we later decided that it would be great to do it for a cause.”
Saunders said they are riding in honor of her roommate Greg’s mother, Maggie Ondrus, who passed away from the disease in 2001. The bike ride also will serve as a celebration for the time it’s been since Saunders was last in the hospital for lupus.
“We started our initial goal at $1,160; it represented the number of days since I had last been in the hospital for lupus … We ended up surpassing that amount in one day,” said Saunders.
The goal Saunders and her roommates set was surpassed several times. They have raised a total $7,500 so far.
To donate money to the cause, visit: www.crowdrise.com/TheGearlyBelovedsRideforLupus/fundraiser/jsaunders