By Steve Guntli
Julie Hanft was a normal, active teenager, but after a lupus diagnosis derailed her life, she had to learn how to live with the debilitating disease.
“Rising Above the Pain” is Hanft’s account of her struggle with the disease, how it has affected her day-to-day life and the coping mechanisms she’s discovered to help her get by.
Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that can cause painful rashes, organ failure and arthritic joints. Hanft has an advanced form of the disease, which has left her in a wheelchair.
“Rising Above the Pain” details her struggles with the disease, from the time she first became sick at 17 to finally receiving the proper diagnosis more than a decade later.
Hanft is originally from California but has lived in Birch Bay with her husband for the past 23 years. She’s been writing since she was 16, but the physical toll her disease took on her kept her from writing a book like she always wanted to.
Hanft initially started writing “Rising Above the Pain” out of frustration. Desperate to let off some steam, she started writing long emails to her pastor, who gave her a venue to speak candidly about her condition. Eventually, she decided to channel those frustrations into a book.
“Five years ago, I was on death’s door,” she said. “I was on oxygen 24 hours a day, I was in constant pain and I was heavy from all the steroid treatments they had me taking. Finally I just decided if I was going to die I was going to do it on my terms, so I quit most of my medications. Since going off the meds, I’ve lost more than 100 pounds and gotten off the oxygen tank for good.”
Once her condition started to improve, she began to get out into the world again, to travel and reunite with friends. Unfortunately, a recent car crash has made another blow to her health, and set back her recovery.
Still, Hanft is staying positive.
“It’s a very hard disease, but it used to be a lot harder,” she said. “Researchers are making strides every day. I’m still staying positive and I’m hopeful I’ll recover enough to live my life.”
Hanft will be signing books at the Bellingham Barnes & Noble from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 14. Half of all proceeds from book sales between now and May 31 will go towards the Lupus Foundation of Washington State, which serves more than 58,000 Washington residents with lupus.
“Rising Above the Pain” is available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million and Mascot Books.