Ron Haberkorn, Living with Lupus

ron haberkorn with lupusRon Haberkorn served in Vietnam with enlisted with the U.S. Army, but his longest and biggest battle has been with lupus.

Ron was diagnosed with lupus in 1981. He says the fatigued and general feelings of being unwell have been his biggest challenges with the disease.  “Lupus is a constant,” Ron said. “I have to strive to live life as well as I can and never give up.”

At 65 years of age, he has many accomplishments to be proud of, a wife of 41 years; two degrees, and a safe return from Vietnam. “I’m just happy to be alive doing the things I love to do,” he said. “And I’m not done with my accomplishments yet.”

Lupus has taken a toll on Ron physically, emotionally and financially. Physically he has pericarditis, a condition in which the sac-like covering around the heart becomes inflamed. It hospitalized him this year.

Emotionally, Ron feels the stressed building up. At one point in his life he took care of his elderly father. It tooks it’s toll with stress, which then manifested itself in physical symptoms, Ron said. “You get to a point where you have to tell everyone, ‘enough is enough.’ I get tired, stressed and need to slow down.” As much as he hates to do that, Ron said it’s necessary to keep his mental and physical health in check.

Then there are the mounting medical bills. Hospital stays not only result in mounting medical bills, it’s also days he can’t work – a double whammy. “It seems unfair that you have health problems to begin with, then you have to pay to treat them with meds, doctor visits and hospital stays,” Ron said. “It’s tough sometimes.”

Fortunately Ron has found an outlet for his stress. He’s an avid potter and has been creating pottery since his college days. He has a wheel and kilm at home where he makes plates, vases, cups, anything he can imagine. “When I’m throwing on the wheel, I just forget everything,” he said.

Another passion of Ron’s is paleontology, which is what he studied at Colorado State University. He’s fortunate to live close to the Florissant Fossil Beds where he can go “shale splitting.” He delicately splits shale with a razor blade to discover what fossils might be hiding between the layers.

One significant challenge for men with lupus is that it may be difficult to find a support system that includes other men with the disease. Statistics say women are nine times more likely to develop the disease than men. Also, it may be difficult for them to discuss a disease that so many people think occurs only in women.  Some men who have had, or currently have lupus include journalist Charles Kuralt, musician Seal, and Tim Raines, who played baseball for the Montreal Expos and the Chicago White Sox.

Ron said not only are there fewer men with the disease, but those who have it don’t seem to be as open to talking and sharing as women generally are. “I try to be open and forthcoming about it,” he said. “That’s my way of helping…just raising awareness.”

Ron advises others to enjoy life, keeping on laughing, and remember to take care of yourself. “Never give up,” he said. “The disease may change the pace at which you reach your goals, but you must keep moving forward.”