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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Guest Article: Prepping with Lupus

Editor's Note:  A while back, I asked chronic disease sufferers how their condition affected their preps. This article, by Renee Williams, is the only answer I received. BCP  welcomes more articles on this topic, so if you are prepper with a chronic illness, please let us know how it affects your prepping. 


Prep, you say? With my illness? Are you Crazy? 

- by Renee Williams

There’s been quite a bit of talk recently in prepping circles about whether or not your Plan will actually work based on your health and physical condition. As someone who has an incurable chronic illness, and who also happens to believe in preparing for disasters, I figured I’d give you my take on the subject.

I have Lupus.

The first thing you should know is that I've had my illness – Systemic Lupus Erethmytosis – for 25 years now since my official diagnosis. It is a retroviral autoimmune disease that is not transmittable to other people. In the most basic of layman’s terms, I’m allergic to myself.

My immune system went haywire back when I was in my early 20s and started fighting against me. Instead of only attacking bacteria or viruses I encounter, my immune system is hyperactive. When it gets bored, it attacks my own cells – my internal organs, my skin, my circulatory system, my nervous system – you name a body system and it can, and most likely has, been attacked by my own immune system at some point during the past 2 decades. 

I go through periods when it’s quiescent, and periods of kicking off in a major way, or "flaring" as it’s generally called. Stress makes it worse. Eating the wrong thing makes it worse. Exposure to long periods of ultraviolet radiation – you know, sunlight – makes it worse.

There is no cure. I will die with it, just as I have lived with it. I most likely won’t die from it, though dying due to a complication caused by the SLE is a definite possibility. I've watched as one parent, and several fellow sufferers of SLE, died due to complications that arose from this particular chronic condition. As often as not, the complications were actually not caused directly by the SLE, but by the various medications frequently used to treat the symptoms.


Preparing for SHTF with a chronic illness means medications.


1) Do I need them to survive, or simply to make surviving more tolerable?

If the answer is, “I have to have this or I am going to die,” then you really have to ask yourself whether prepping for a long-term collapse of civilization is practical. Prepping for short term is totally doable, even on medications that are necessary for day-to-day survival. Getting a couple of months of extra prescription filled, and putting them away in your bug out gear, is something that I do even with my “I don’t need it to survive, just to be fully functional and not a raving witch due to pain issues” meds. Having spares in your bug out bag for ditching home in a hurry due to Tornado or Hurricane can mean the difference between having them on hand during cleanup, and having to wait until your town has been rebuilt to get a refill.

2) Are there reasonable alternatives for any of my medications which can be achieved through diet, exercise, or traditional herbal remedies?

I've taken the time to learn about, and learn how to identify, herbal alternatives to my most frequently used medications. For example, knowing how to identify White Willow, and how to harvest the soft inner bark for use as an herbal tea,  is a good thing to have lying about in the back of your brain. The active compound in white willow tea is salicylic acid – aka aspirin! It’s that go-to pain reliever that we used for centuries prior to having Ibuprofen, Naproxen Sodium, and Acetaminophen as alternatives.

While not everyone is going to have any sort of serious interest in herbalism, a basic knowledge of herbal home remedies (especially those which can be backed up by modern science!) can be a life saver in case of a long-term disruption of our current tech base. I keep several herbs on hand – rotating the stock regularly so that it stays at peak effectiveness – as alternatives to general pain killers, muscle relaxants, plant-derived estrogen for female hormone therapy (not something males will necessarily need, unless it’s for their wife, girlfriend or daughter) and others.

At the very least, you should consider adding one or two books on basic herbalism and herbal remedies to your library. While it won’t make you an expert on the subject, most good books on herbalism give detailed descriptions, common climates and conditions where a particular herb grows, how and when it should be harvested, which portions to use and which to avoid, and detailed pictures for help in identification.


Am I in good enough physical shape to perform my skills when SHTF?

To some people, this is more important than taking stock of your medications and whether you need to keep a few extra months’ supply on hand. I consider it a secondary concern – If I have to have my medications just to live to see tomorrow, and civilization is ending, then the best I can do is say my goodbyes and try to teach my skills to someone who isn't dependent on chemicals. 

Since that’s not the case for me, personally (my medications are to make life more tolerable and less painful), I need to take stock of my current physical shape. I constantly joke that I’m in shape – after all, "Round is a Shape", right?

All joking aside, being able to physically manage to go foraging through the woods for a couple of hours to find wild growing herbs, or hunt game, is something that has to be taken into consideration. Standing for long periods of time is painful for me, even with medications. This means standing a watch is probably not going to be high on my list of capable activities. Sitting at a table and chopping vegetables, however, or butchering game meat or fish, then fixing dinner for the ones who are able to stand watch – that’s totally within my scope of Can Do.


Who do I team up with?

Some people are in good enough physical condition that they don’t necessarily have to have a whole team put together to get things done – it just makes it less time consuming, and somewhat increases the long-term odds. For me, or anyone with a seriously limiting physical condition, a team becomes a necessity because there are things I simply can’t do.

A 50 to 100 mile trek into the mountains on foot within a couple of days to reach a bolt hole isn't feasible for me. It’s just not. I wheeze and wince in pain if I try to walk the full circuit at the local mall too rapidly! Digging latrines, irrigation ditches, or even the initial work to set up a garden are also out of my reach. That’s where teaming up with people who are much more physically capable than myself becomes critical, and extends my odds for long term survival by several orders of magnitude.

There are also things that I can do, but which cause me so much stress that my disease flares up, which renders me incapable of doing much other than lying in bed in a fetal position trying not to cry. In a SHTF scenario, I don’t have the time – or the luxury – of lying in bed waiting for pain to go away, swelling to go down, and my body to be mostly functional once more. Time becomes critical to survival, and if I make myself sick attempting to do things that are out of my physical range, I waste that time and endanger myself
along with everyone else on my team.

Ultimately, you need to know the people you plan to bug out with, and make sure they understand, fully and completely, what your limitations are, and under what circumstances they’re going to have to pick up the slack.



Eventually, even in the best case SHTF situation, the person (like me) with a chronic illness is going to spend a portion of their time as dead weight. Be prepared for that, mentally and emotionally, and make sure that the people with whom you plan to survive are also prepared. It will save you all a lot of grief later on, and possibly keep things manageable so that a full on collapse doesn’t happen at a point that’s critical to everyone’s survival.

The Fine Print


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