Margie Gart, Living with Lupus

Margie gart 2 horizontalWould Margie Gart have finished the New York Marathon or climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro if it weren’t for lupus?

It is hard to know for sure, but there is no denying that having lupus has pushed and challenged Margie in ways she wouldn’t have been otherwise.

“I do things to affirm my wellness,” Margie said. “I try to live outside the lines. It inspires me.”

Margie has been to Bhutan, hiked in the Himalayas, walked along the Inca Trail, and fished in Alaska. She skis, hikes, runs and has completed six short-distance triathlons, plus the New York City Marathon. These are amazing feats for any person, but especially for someone with an autoimmune disease. Margie know that – and appreciates it. “I cry every time I cross the finish line,” she said.

Margie is married with adult three children. She works about 30 hours a week as the Director of Philanthropic Services for the Rose Community Foundation. “I’m fortunate to work at a job that I am passionate about. I have a deep commitment to giving back to the community around me,” she said. When not working, she loves to cook, read, knit and play with her labrador retrievers.

As a young woman, Margie married into a family whose world revolved around sports and staying active. Her husband is the son of one of the “Gart Brothers.” The Gart family has been in the sporting goods business for three generations and launched Gart Sports, a large chain of sporting goods stores in Colorado and the western United States. He husband, Margie said, “has been my motivator and support in all that I do. Without him, my story would be quite different.”

In her life before Lupus, Margie describes herself as Type A. She was able to set her sites on a goal and achieve it. “I attended Dartmouth, Harvard Business School, and went to work on Wall Street. I knew I was a person who could make things happen,” she said.

But shortly after giving birth to her third child, Margie was diagnosed with lupus. “I was tired, really tired,” she said. “Everyone said, ‘Of course your tired, you have had three children in four years.’ But I knew it was something more.”

A series of tests revealed that she had lupus. “At first I was terrified. I thought, ‘what if I die and my children don’t know me?’”

But eventually Margie came to understand what the disease meant for her and her body and stopped living in constant fear that should would die. “At that point, I just assumed that I would live an impaired life,” she said. “Up until that point I felt like I had some control over my life. I could achieve the goals that I wanted to achieve,” she said. “Lupus was something I didn’t have control of.”

Eventually Margie found a level of peace and acceptance with her disease. She incorporated changes to her life. For example, she accepted that she’d need naps more often. She hired a babysitter when she needed extra hands and she stayed home most evenings. “This was hard for me,“ she said. “My children ate a lot of King Soopers fried chicken during those years.”

Many with lupus agree that accepting that you need help and that you can’t live your former fast-paced lifestyle are two of the most difficult aspects of having the disease. But managing lupus, Margie said, has reminded her that she needs to keep her life in balance and slow down a bit. In addition, lupus is a reminder to Margie to appreciate the positive aspects of her life.

“I realize that not everyone with a disease has the options that I have,” she said. “I appreciate my life and I know there are others who suffer more physically, who don’t have financial resources, who don’t have health insurance, or who don’t have a family that is as supportive as mine. I have so much that I am grateful for.”

Margie copes with her disease by creating new goals to work for, with many of those goals being physical ones. “I continually try to push the limits of my box outward,” she said. “I choose experiences that push me into new territory.”

That’s how she found herself hiking to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro and running across the finish line at the New York City Marathon.

For those who are newly diagnosed, Margie advises, “there’s no denying that living with a chronic illness is hard. You are allowed to be sad about it. You are allowed to struggle – but not forever,” Margie said. “You may have to re-define what your life looks like, but you can live it with purpose and passion.”