LDS fraternity, sorority help in fight against lupus

There hadn’t been a treatment for lupus for 30 years, but that has changed, according to Jennifer Callister.

Members of Sigma Gamma Chi and Lambda Delta Sigma are doing their part to be involved.

Callister, a member and former president of the Lupus Foundation of America’s Utah Chapter, says that a new drug by the name of Cellcept will be marketed, beginning this week, to help patients of the disease.

“I got notification on Friday” about the new drug, she said.

Callister, who was diagnosed with the disease herself nearly seven years ago, was on hand Saturday morning as the members of the fraternity and sorority at the LDS Institute of Religion organized a fund-raiser, with all proceeds going to the Lupus Foundation in Utah.

Creighton Lowe, vice president of Sigma Gamma Chi and master of ceremonies for the event, called it a “friendly competition between all the chapters” of Sigma Gamma Chi and Lambda Delta Sigma.

The activity-held at the Salt Lake Community College South City Campus-was open to all members of the fraternity and sorority, with each paying $3 to get in.

With more than 500 in attendance, the organizations were able to collect about $1,200 for the foundation, after subtracting costs, Lowe said.

With fraternity and sorority chapters teaming up together and going head-to-head, “the competition does get pretty intense,” with games including a relay race, crab soccer, a limbo contest, a balloon relay race and a tug of war, Lowe said. “But in the end, everybody knows it’s going to charity.”

“I was very impressed with the turnout they had and just the camaraderie and spirit they had…It was just very fun, uplifting even to be at,” Callister said.

Callister says that the group will use the money to do what it’s been doing for some time now-holding programs and forums and giving information about the disease to the nearly 12,000 Utahns diagnosed with the disease, as well as to others.

The disease is an autoimmune disease. With a healthy immune system, according to Callister, a body recognizes foreign substances and produces antibodies to fight them.

However, with lupus, “Your body doesn’t recognize its own tissues, [so] it produces antibodies against itself [that] can go after any part of your body,” she said. It’s common to have problems with the kidney, heart, brain or any other part of the body with the disease. “It’s an inflammatory disease…which is painful,” Callister said. To make things worse, “There is no diagnostic test that they can run” to test for the disease, she said. As a result, people with the disease typically are not diagnosed for at least four years and after visiting multiple doctors.

It took five years to diagnose Callister, she said.

The national foundation did a survey over the last year, Callister said, in which the study showed that people in one-third of the homes in the nation knew someone with lupus, but didn’t necessarily know what the disease was.

While the new drug mainly helps patients who suffer from kidney problems because of lupus, according to Callister, there is still more research happening across the nation, and with lobbying efforts every year to the U.S. Congress, the foundation hopes to continue to expand its resources in fighting the disease. Sigma Gamma Chi and Lambda Delta Sigma’s donation “will help us tremendously,” she said.

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