Well-known Piedmont woman shares private struggle to help other women

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- "My mom was sitting in the chair and she kept looking back watching me and I'm thinking why is she watching me so much," said Keva Brooks Napper.

Keva has spent many a Sunday sitting in the front pews at Mount Zion Baptist Church, at one time the largest church in the state. Her father, George Brooks, was the longtime pastor there. But this Sunday, back in June 2004, was unlike any other.

"I started stretching out, no control of my limbs, I went down in my seat and my brother and other church members jumped up and ran around and got me," remembered Keva.

The then 27-year-old Keva had a grand mal seizure. Later that day in the hospital, she had several more seizures and then a stroke.

"I think it's by God's grace, I can even sit here and talk about it," she said.

Keva had been diagnosed the year before with Lupus, but hadn't told many people about her disease. Lupus is often misdiagnosed for years. It's an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack the body's tissues. Nine out of 10 people who have the disease are women.

"Usually between the ages of 15 and 44, they're more likely to be a minority woman and three times more likely to be an African American woman," Keva said.

Keva kept her struggle quiet for years, but then opened up about it in a big way. She created a very active non-profit, leads support groups and wrote a book about it called "A Fight To Fly."

"I want to inspire and encourage other women, everyone, to know that even with a lupus diagnosis, you can not just survive, but thrive. Makes me feel like everything I've been challenged with by dealing with lupus has been worth it. It makes me feel like I'm filling my assignment."

Keva's website is http://mybeautifulbutterflies.com/

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