They are many Maltese who can’t wait for summer to be able to enjoy the sea and spend entire days lapping up the sun.
Until seven years ago, Fiona Sammut was one of them until she discovered she had Lupus and started to fear the sun with a passion.
Staying in the sun has huge repercussions on Fiona’s health.
When I met Fiona Sammut she was covered in sunblock despite the fact that I met her when the sun was about to set. With a smile, she told me she ought to have worn a hat too.
The sun is now her greatest enemy. Even when the sun goes down, she still has to cover herself in sunblock. “I used to love summer – going to the beach or to a swimming pool. That is something that I now have to live without.”
This is all a result of Lupus. There is still no cure for it. Doctors have not as yet discovered the cause of Lupus.
“When the sun is out I stay inside because I know the great harm it can do to my body”
Fiona discovered she had Lupus quite by chance 7 years ago when she had a fever. ‘They couldn’t establish where the fever was coming from. This chronic disease affected my kidneys: the source of the fever. ”
It was a bolt out of the blue. “At the time I was doing a doctorate and I thought what on earth am I going to do?’
It was not easy for doctors to discover that Fiona had lupus because she did not have any symptoms. The symptoms of Lupus are a rash in the form of a butterfly on the face.
She often has skin allergies. To use her words, she feels as if ants are trampling over her body.”
‘Suddenly your body is under attack – your kidneys, heart, skin, your brain, even your joints. Lupus can attack anywhere.’
Fiona wants to keep taking the medicines for life. “The peace of mind that I am now now well and that I will stay well, is always foremost in your head and knowing that it could all change.”
Although she gets her moments, Fiona is determined to enjoy life to the full. She runs the Department of Statistics at the University.”
‘I choose to fight the disease and wont allow it to beat me. ”
In Malta there are an estimated 100 people with Lupus, 90 of them women. The number could be much higher because identifying the disease is not always easy. l.