EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Kristy Montero first thought stress was causing her severe fatigue and other symptoms, but when she scheduled an appointment with a rheumatologist, she found out it was lupus.
“I had joint pain, headaches, dry mouth, and I thought that doesn’t seem normal,” said Montero, an educator and mother of five who was diagnosed with systemic lupus eight years ago. “One morning I woke up and I had bald spots on my head.”
May is the month of bringing awareness to lupus, an auto-immune disease with no cure that often takes months or years to diagnose. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, this disease causes infections and severe pain as the immune system starts to attack the body’s healthy tissue.
“Even taking a shower can be just brutal on your body,” Montero explained.
Some other symptoms can be pain and swelling in the joints, rash, breathing problems, chest pain or sensitivity to light.
Having been diagnosed, she felt like she was alone and realized she needed a support group of people going through the same experience.
“I looked for a support group and I couldn’t find one. I was worried and I was scared,” she said.
Five years ago, Montero was ready to start her own lupus community in El Paso and started a Facebook page called Know Lupus El Paso.
During the pandemic, she started holding Zoom meetings where she educates and helps support anyone fighting lupus. Once the pandemic started, Monterostarted taking extra precautions as a part of one of the high-risk groups.
She said another challenge that people diagnosed with lupus faced was the lack of the drug hydroxychloroquine that was used for COVID-19 treatment at the beginning of the pandemic.
“People that were not able to get their prescriptions filled, we had to deal with all of that on top of COVID,” she explained.
She hopes to continue educating about the disease and give support through her group to whoever needs it.
“Just keep a positive attitude. I really think that’s what’s helped me, trying to stay away from the stress, but making sure that I am good and I’m taking my medication and that I’m reaching out when I need the help,” said Montero.