Milledgeville native’s journey leads to raising lupus awareness

Lupus Walk

May is Lupus Awareness Month, and an upcoming community walk will give participants a chance to learn more about the disease while offering support to a Milledgeville native. 

It was January 2013 when Pamela Beckom was first diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and can affect multiple body systems. .

Beckom’s symptoms started with a cough and she was initially diagnosed with bronchitis. She didn’t respond to any of the medication she was given, though, and her cough continued to worsen. She was told next that she had pneumonia. Still, medication didn’t help, and she continued getting sicker. An emergency room visit would eventually reveal patches of infection on her lungs and chest that were not pneumonia. Beckom was referred to a pulmonologist and then twice to a rheumatologist before finally being diagnosed with lupus 10 months after her symptoms had started. 

“It was a rough, rough journey,” she said.  

In the meantime, she began having swelling in her hands and feet, a worsening cough, stiff joints, nausea and extreme fatigue. Soon after her diagnosis, she started steroids that immediately began to help. 

“There was a big difference after the first night of taking steroids,” she said. “The next day I was able to get out of the bed without any stiffness and pain, and I was able to walk more. It was just a big difference, and that was before they even started me on the lupus medication that I’m on.” 

Today, Beckom said she has good days and bad days. She requires B12 injections to manage fatigue, and she does still battle symptoms like swelling in her hands and feet and aching joints, but nothing like when she was first diagnosed. She manages the illness now with medication. 

By her side throughout her journey has been Wakisha Young, her very best friend since their fifth-grade year at Midway Elementary School. Now 40, the two local women began going to lupus walks together in Atlanta back in 2015. After attending for five years, they decided they wanted to bring their own walk to Milledgeville. They had planned to begin in 2020, but their efforts were delayed due to COVID-19.  

In just a few days, though, they will finally see that dream come true when Pam’s Lupus Walk is held right here in Milledgeville. It’s a project the two have organized and funded entirely by themselves, and it will be a free, fun event for the whole family. 

The one-mile walk will begin at 10 a.m., and there will be plenty of fun activities to enjoy throughout the event. There will be a petting zoo, game truck, DJ, face painting, educational information, free food, vendors and much more. Young said all that people need to do to participate is just show up on the morning of the event. 

“If this goes well, we’re hoping to bring it to Milledgeville every year,” she said. 

Beckom said she is hopeful that the event will help to raise awareness about lupus. 

“Lupus is something many people don’t really talk about…,” Beckom said. “It’s something that I’m passionate about because I suffer with it.” 

Raising awareness is Young’s motivation too, but even more so is standing beside the friend she calls her sister. 

“But most importantly just to bring support for my friend – to go through it with her and just show her how much I love her, and I’ll be with her until we’re both old and grey.” 

Pam’s Lupus Walk will be held May 7, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Huley Park, 1180 N. Wayne St…

 

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