At first glance Helena Mitchell looks like every other regular, fun loving, twenty something, concentrating on building her career and embracing life. A second glance tells a different story. Helena, 25, from Cheltenham, is battling seven health conditions. What they have in common is that they are ‘invisible’ – unless you pick a bad day – then you can see just how unwell Helena is.
She suffers from Sjogren’s syndrome, Psoriasis, Psoriatic arthritis, Hyperthyroidism, Neutropenia and Raynaud’s phenomenon. And both types of Lupus. These conditions cause her skin to break out – Lupus, in an unsightly, puce, butterfly rash. Psoriatic arthritis leaves her lower body in the ‘day after’ pain of a marathon runner. And she is currently receiving immunosuppressants in the form of chemo.
Helena is a voice over artist, vocal coach and actor. And she uses her voice to reach out and raise awareness of invisible illnesses; creating understanding to beat the stigma surrounding these conditions.
She said: ‘An invisible illness is any condition that a person is personally struggling with, that is not visible.’
In July, during the pandemic, Helena started her vlog – Helena’s Health Hike. It follows her personal journey with invisible illnesses. So far, she’s tackled: ‘stigma and invisible illness’, ‘chronic fatigue’, ‘moving house with an invisible illness’, ‘mindset’ and ‘medication’.
Medication is a very large part of Helena’s life. She takes 19 tablets a day. Pills primed and ready for morning, afternoon and night; contained in a dosset box the size of an ipad.
Keeping fit is a priority for Helena. She takes it to heart and has raised £2500, running two separate half marathons, for Lupus UK. Each race has caused her lupus to flare up.
Lupus Awareness Month
October is Lupus Awareness Month in the UK. It raises awareness about this invisible illness and raises funds to support patients and research new treatments.
Paul Howard, ceo of Lupus UK said: ‘Lupus is a condition which is very poorly understood by the public and many within the medical profession. We’re extremely grateful to those individuals within the community who are happy to discuss their experiences of the disease and the impact it has on their lives to help educate others. Many people with lupus experience various forms of discrimination or disbelief about their condition because they can be young and often look well. It is important to address this so that people living with lupus and other invisible illnesses can be better supported.’
Approximately one in 1,000 people in the UK are living with lupus. Based on a population of around 66 million people, this would mean roughly 66,000 people have lupus in the UK. Lupus is much more prevalent in women, so roughly 9 out of 10 cases are in females.