PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WVEC) -- Jokiva Bellard has more than 91,000 followers on Instagram. She uses the platform to spread positivity and encourage others while battling lupus.
“You get a lot of people that judge just based off looks. They don't read the books, they just judge the cover. I have a lot of women who are scared to walk outside with their Lupus rash,” said Jokiva.
The Dallas woman was diagnosed with lupus at the age of 17.
“It started off as an eczema rash and then I had joint pain. They mistakenly diagnosed me with eczema, but I ended up going to a rheumatologist and was diagnosed with lupus,” she said.
She didn’t let her lupus rash at the 3rd Annual Hampton Roads Lupus Walk for a Cure in Portsmouth stop her from embracing people with hugs and educating them about the disease. Jokiva shares pictures of her battle with the disease on Instagram and what it’s like when her lupus flares up. She called it an on-and-off struggle.
“You can have a flare up where your skin is bleeding or you feel too weak to even get up out the bed. I have moments to where I can’t even eat. The only thing I can really eat is chicken noodle soup,” she said.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects millions of people in the United States. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, more than 16,000 new cases of lupus are diagnosed each year.
For people with lupus, their immune system can’t tell the difference between foreign invaders and their body’s healthy tissue. As a result, it creates autoantibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue.
Lupus mainly affects women of childbearing age, but men and children develop lupus too. Women of color are two to three times more likely to develop the disease, and there’s no cure.
Jokiva said her mission is to continue to educate people and raise awareness about lupus. She also hopes to encourage people to be comfortable in their skin, no matter how it looks.
“Always have that courage in yourself to say this is who I am. No matter what I go through I have to love who I am,” Jokiva said.