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‘I may have lupus, but lupus does not have me’: Tifton advocate dedicates life to lupus awareness

Lupus advocate fighting for awareness
Published: May. 11, 2022 at 7:09 PM EDT
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TIFTON, Ga. (WALB) - Tifton isn’t the only place purple has taken over.

Another “Lifting Up With Lenah” is back with the goal to highlight people and organizations who are doing good deeds throughout South Georgia.

This month, the spotlight is on an advocate whose work is dedicated to speaking up for those impacted by lupis, an autoimmune disease.

Let’s get inspired!

“I may have lupus, but lupus does not have me,” Pat Mckinnon, lupus survivor and advocate, said.

She has been living with lupus for 20 years and decided 10 years ago that she wanted to make a change by fighting to bring awareness to the autoimmune disease.

Pat McKinnon is fighting to spread awareness of the autoimmune disease.
Pat McKinnon is fighting to spread awareness of the autoimmune disease.(WALB)

In 2012, she began her advocacy work with an invitation for 50 people to meet her wearing purple in support of lupus awareness. To her surprise, over 200 people showed up to support her call to action.

Since then, McKinnon has worked every year to make sure South Georgia knows about Lupus Awareness Month.

“When I moved back to Tifton. I said to myself, ‘why not make lupus visible in the community,’” she said. “If you were to ask me how many people do I think I have touched with the awareness of lupus, I could potentially say about 30,000 people.”

This year, the start of May began with the City of Tifton’s first-ever lupus walk. McKinnon also got the city government involved by getting a proclamation signed declaring May as Lupus Awareness Month in Tifton.

In past years, Mckinnon has hosted lupus events such as basketball games, raised money for lupus research through her purple bow sales and honored those impacted by lupus with different events and gifts.

May is Lupus Awareness Month and efforts to spread awareness are underway in The City of Tifton. Visit WALB.com to see what’s happening in the friendly city.

Posted by Lenah Allen WALB on Friday, May 6, 2022

“Another thing that we’ve done also is we sell t-shirts and what we do with the t-shirts is we just want everyone to be in unison to show the awareness of what we’re doing,” she said. “I’ve also gone to the capitol and talked to state representatives and I’ve gotten other celebrities like football coaches and just people to throw up their right hand for lupus.”

McKinnon said all of her advocacy work has been done for one purpose.

“I want everyone under the sound of my voice to know a little bit more about lupus because with lupus, having that awareness, it would help that potential medical student that’s in college to say, ‘hey I might want to focus on lupus to help find the cure for this cruel mystery of a disease’. Because it’s so habilitating for some people,” she said.

Education is also an important aspect of her push to make people aware of lupus.

Purple bows around Tifton are a part of McKinnon's initiative to spread lupus awareness.
Purple bows around Tifton are a part of McKinnon's initiative to spread lupus awareness.(WALB)

“Lupus is an autoimmune disease and it attacks any part of the body. It could be your skin, where you have the butterfly rash and it’s in a shape of a butterfly on your face. That’s why I wear the butterfly on my chest because that’s one of our mascots for lupus awareness, along with the wolf. There’s also kidney disease. It’s called lupus nephritis, actually, that’s what I suffer from,” McKinnon said.

McKinnon said that seeing purple spread more and more around the South Georgia community makes all her work worth it.

“It means a lot to me. It means that the awareness is getting out there if I can just say, ‘hello there Tina, hello Mary, hello Vivian, hello Roxy how are you doing today,’ because some people don’t have the support system that they need and have in lupus. Because people look at you and say, ‘you look fine. You don’t look like you’re sick’ and that can be one of the cruelest things that a person can say to a lupus warrior,” she said.

Tifton Lupus Awareness
Tifton Lupus Awareness(WALB)

Instead, McKinnon advises the community to do this.

“You could actually go to the Lupus Foundation of Georgia, go to the Lupus Foundation, go to their websites and just read. Just read a little bit more information even if it’s just Googling what is lupus,” she said. “Watching little video clips on Youtube would help. Just anything dealing with lupus, just find out more information about it.”

Anyone can support lupus awareness throughout this month by simply wearing purple. McKinnon also encourages everyone to wear purple on May 27 for Tift County Goes Purple Day.

With so much going on in the world today, it’s a relief to be able to stop and listen to the work being done to create a better world.

Anyone with suggestions of an organization or person doing good in the community can send submissions to Lenah.Allen@walb.com.

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