It's known as a women's disease. Lupus is an autoimmune condition that affects nearly 1.35 million American women. Women with Lupus are often told they can't start a family -- until now.
Four walls and a roof may be the foundation of a house, but it’s not a home without a mother’s love.
For Nichole Csete – it’s paved with loss.
“My husband and I wanted to have children and I suffered two miscarriages," Csete said. "I felt a lot of guilt because we knew that it most likely had to do with my lupus being active.”
At 17, Csete was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease.
“I had a summer job where I was working for the state parks. I was working outside all day long and I developed a rash across my nose and cheeks," she said.
Chris Mayne is an associate professor of biology at Viterbo University and an expert on immunology. Mayne says for women with Lupus, their body works against them.
“This immune system attacking just about any tissue in our body," Mayne said.
At its worst, this chronic illness isn’t forgiving, so you can imagine how difficult it is to live with.
“My two biggest issues are a clotting disorder I’ve developed and also, my kidneys are being attacked. I’m at stage 2 kidney disease right now," Csete said.
She's not the only one. 90% of patients who hear this diagnosis from their doctor are women, many of them looking to start a family.
“You know, what I thought was a whole plan figured for my life, it was pretty devastating to know I couldn’t do those things and if I did, I was going to get sick and sicker," Csete said.
Researchers don’t completely understand Lupus, but one local group is looking to change that.
“Primary care providers could learn something, a patient could learn something, people’s sort of family could learn something about these challenges," Mayne said.
The Local Lupus Alliance donated $25,000 to the American College of Rheumatology. Their goal? Create educational videos for women with Lupus that want to get pregnant.
“So we had a patient representative from the local area, we had a scientist from the local area and then we also hired a graphic design company to create these videos from the local area. To try to keep as much of this money in the local area as possible," Mayne said.
For women like Csete, each video is a symbol of hope.
“My son Liam was born, you know, it was the greatest feeling ever, but I felt like I kinda beat lupus. So, at least for a little bit," she said.
It’s a reminder that building a family is possible.
“Even with having Lupus, I could not be more blessed. I have the family that I always wanted," Csete said.
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Duaa Israr graduated from DePaul University in June 2021 with a double major in journalism and political science. She was raised in Skokie, Illinois, a suburb right outside Chicago. During her time at DePaul, Duaa wrote for the student-run newspaper The DePaulia and the student-run magazine 14 East. After switching over from print news to broadcast, Duaa worked for the student-run television station, Good Day DePaul. In her free time, Duaa enjoys reading, painting, trying new recipes, and spending time with her family!