Ray Wilson (Blackpool)
|Hello, I’m Ray Wilson and I’m the Membership Secretary of North West Lupus.
Many of you will remember my late wife, Valerie Wilson, who was Secretary and Newsletter Editor of the group until her untimely death in 2013. I’d been in the background until then, lending a hand with the computer side of things when Val needed it. As she was already running the membership database it seemed natural for me take over and I joined the Committee five years ago.
Our involvement with Lupus started in 1988, although we did not know it at the time. We were on our first family holiday to America and the shock of emerging from Miami airport into the heat and humidity of southern Florida was the trigger that Val always claimed was the onset of her Lupus. She had chronic fatigue during our three week stay, although she put on a brave face for the sake of the children.
The early symptoms of Lupus continued back in the UK, as Val held down a full-time job as a Junior School teacher as well as Beaver Scout leader. It took another five years before we had a name for her condition – Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or SLE – a disease that was new to both of us.
With the help and support of her doctors in Blackpool and Manchester, the worst symptoms of SLE were brought under control. Careful management of her work sessions and rest periods was still needed, however, as she continued full-time teaching until she was granted ill-health retirement in 1999.
The early months of retirement were a dark period in her life, as she drifted aimlessly without any sense of purpose. Gradually she emerged out of depression with renewed vigour as she started working to educate the public about Lupus and to give help and advice to fellow sufferers.
Her work for Lupus UK took her around the North-West, to the Parliamentary Committee for Lupus and to an International conference in Madrid. She became involved with several other local health groups and her energy seemed boundless, until you realised that it needed coping strategies and organised rest periods.
She had more than a decade of this period of fulfilment in her life. She became Secretary of the Lancashire and Cheshire Lupus Group, which later became North West Lupus – the largest regional group of Lupus UK. In this capacity, as well as the four different Coffee and Chat Groups she managed, she became known to many of you.
Now she has gone, my purpose on the Committee is to give background support, just as I did when Val was still alive. Like her, but in my own small way, I find satisfaction in being able to help sufferers of a condition that I have only experienced from the periphery.