Burke County girl leads search for cure for lupus

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MORGANTON, N.C. (AP) - In honor of May as Lupus Awareness Month, East Burke High School freshman Emily Shuford is bringing her community together to fight for a cure. All while fighting her own battle with what many call the world’s cruelest and most mysterious disease, Shuford is working to inspire the world around her and to bring an end to Lupus.

Like anyone who lives with Lupus, Shuford faces difficult symptoms every day.

“I see the world the same - maybe even a little brighter, because I appreciate it more. I just live in it a little differently,” said Shuford. “I have to take time to rest, listen to my body, deal with chronic pain, prevent infections, stay as healthy as I can, and continue to meet my daily obligations - even when I just want to stop, curl up and sleep.

“Fatigue is the biggest challenge and I have to enjoy things on my time schedule. I have to realize that not everyone understands my illness and be patient with them as they, too, learn.”

In addition to dealing with her own symptoms, Shuford has seen others in her family fight the same disease throughout her life. Knowing that she is not alone in her battle has inspired her to take a stand against Lupus.

“It is personal for me because my grandmother, my mother and I all live with Lupus in some form daily,” she said. “The more I am involved, the more I learn and the more I can share in helping others understand. Most importantly, I can better support others living with Lupus.”

In an effort to raise awareness and funds for research, Shuford and her family helped organize the Little Miss and Teen Miss Burke County pageant in April - proceeds from which supported “Team Emily” at this year’s Walk to End Lupus Now, which was held on Saturday in Charlotte.

“I enjoyed the walk and having fellowship with all my friends and family, meeting new people and others with Lupus. I knew it would be a very educational and inspiring day for all of us,” said Shuford. “I looked forward to seeing a big purple wave of people as we all walked in support of our Lupus Warriors and research for a cure. In a way, it is healing. To see so many people care and get involved helps us all believe that there is hope.”

She and her family, along with the recently announced Little Miss and Teen Miss Burke County court, are selling coffee mugs, bracelets, angel pins and purple butterflies to individuals and local businesses to support Lupus research. She is also encouraging her schoolmates to sport the color of Lupus awareness in “Put On Purple Day” and is organizing a final fundraising event for the month.

“Community service is a great way to give back and to get involved with many opportunities happening in your area. It not only promotes caring and helping others, but builds healthy attitudes toward one another,” she said. “Plus, it offers all kinds of educational advantages you can learn and use throughout your life. I have found it to be very personally rewarding.

“I am thankful that I have had great support from my school, staff and classmates. They are spreading awareness and they helped me recruit classmates for the Walk to End Lupus Now. Many of my peers at school are helping me with all of this.”

Throughout her efforts, Shuford said that she has been thankful for the support she has received from her friends, family, neighbors and the Town of Hildebran.

“They have always listened, donated or participated, and they have never turned me away,” she said. “I am very thankful for them.”

Her own experiences have inspired Shuford to reach out to her community and make a difference in the world around her - to bring people together and put an end to Lupus.

“If I do my part and raise awareness, it gives me the opportunity to help people who have symptoms of Lupus consider seeing a doctor and, with a diagnosis, get treatment early,” she said. “Also, increasing awareness will increase funding for research, better medicine for treatment and, hopefully, a cure.

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