CRESTVIEW — After being diagnosed with lupus more than two years ago, Pam Pursley, 54, wants to spread awareness about the disease.
Lupus, a chronic, autoimmune disease, can cause chest pain, abnormal blood clotting, mouth or nose ulcers, low red blood cell count and extreme fatigue, among symptoms, according to lupus.org.
An estimated 1.5 million Americans, and 90 percent of women, have some form of the disease, according to the Lupus Foundation of America.
Pursley has systemic lupus, which inflames the body's major internal organs.
"It’s the worst kind you can have; not only does it mess up your skin and joints, but it can also mess up your heart, kidneys and your lungs," she said.
She sells homemade sugar scrub products on Fridays at the curbside market on Main Street. Pursley recently started making and selling the skin care product with her grandchildren’s help.
To honor Lupus Awareness Month, Pursley has donated a portion of proceeds to the Lupus Foundation of America.
Pursley said she plans to start a support group for those affected by lupus. She would also like to start a community event that would raise awareness and — hopefully — more funding for lupus research.
"I would like to get a chapter going to start the lupus walk...that's my main goal is to raise money for research," she said.
For now, she’s dealing with challenges associated with the disease.
Pursley’s condition can at times leave her in such pain that she must rely on family members’ assistance.
"I can't even get up by myself; my daughter has to physically pull me up because it hurts so bad," she said.
Symptoms, which she takes 14 medications for, forced her to quit her job at Bayside Cleaners in Crestview. She is filing an appeal to receive Social Security disability benefits.
Pursley said she can barely pay utility bills. However, she receives some assistance from family members, and two doctors have helped her find reduced-cost prescriptions.
Despite her illness, Pursley has been on the go with her grandchildren.
"(Doctors) have told me that I should have been in a wheelchair by now," she said. "I told them, ‘No, I have five little grandbabies... I have no time for a wheelchair.'"
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.