The Edmond Sun

Local News

May 19, 2010

Santa Fe musicians ‘band’ together for lupus cure

EDMOND — Her easy smile lit up her face as she talked with enthusiasm about her music students, but for Rebecca Coleman that smile belied the pain she lives with daily.

In 1985 at the age of 17, Coleman was diagnosed with Raynaud’s Phenomenon at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

In 1995 Dr. Craig Carson with the Oklahoma Arthritis Center in Edmond diagnosed her with lupus. When diagnosed Coleman said she thought she was too young to get something like lupus.

In lupus, the immune system loses its ability to tell the difference between foreign substances, such as viruses or bacteria, and the body’s healthy tissue, according to information from the Lupus Foundation. The result is the production of autoantibodies that attack healthy tissue.

“When I was diagnosed it was scary,” Coleman said. “I did a lot of research because I like to look up information and study, and I found out with the correct diet and the proper medication, I can make it through the day.”

At this time Coleman is on a regimen of 20 pills a day including chemotherapy, and she recently started taking infusions.

“I am taking the infusions because I failed my last liver and kidney tests, but we are working on that,” she said.

“Lupus is one of those diseases where you don’t look sick to other people,” Coleman said, although some days she finds it necessary to use a cane at school.

 “I can go to school and teach, but by the time I get home I start getting tired, and by 7:30 in the evening I am finished,” Coleman said.

When at home she operates out of her bedroom, saying weekends are the most difficult for her with laundry, the housework and keeping up with her children.

She and her husband Roland have two children, Raquel, who soon will turn 10, and Royce, who is an active 6-year-old. Both are students at Clegern Elementary School.

Despite her illness, Coleman, an Iowa native, graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in music and from the University of Oklahoma in 1995 with a master’s degree in instrumental conducting.

Coleman became a National Board Certified Teacher in 2006. “I love to learn,” she said. She has been a band director since 1989 and came to Summit Middle School in 1992 as band director. She has been one of the assistant band directors at Santa Fe High School since it opened in 1993.

Advocates for finding a cure for lupus, Coleman and her family, including her husband and her parents, have had blood work taken for extensive testing and research. She undergoes arthritis testing every six months to help find a cure or better medication for those who have lupus.

“In 50 years no new medicine has been found for lupus patients,” Coleman said. “There is a drug for lupus that is now in the test stages, and I look forward to being able to take it.”

You can see Rebecca wearing purple many days.

“The color purple represents lupus so I have adopted purple as one of my favorite colors to wear,” Coleman said.

For the past several years all of the Santa Fe Symphonic Band members have worn purple wrist bands that say, “Someone you know has lupus.” Sophomore Adrianna Doyal also made purple flower clips for each of the girls to wear during the spring band concert.

“This year the band surprised me with all of the girls wearing purple flowers in their hair to represent our ‘band’ against the battle of lupus,” Coleman said.

Ironically, Santa Fe’s school mascot is a wolf, one of two symbols associated with the disease of lupus. The other symbol is a butterfly.

The pattern of the rash that sometimes forms under the eyes of lupus patients looks like a butterfly, Coleman said.

Although some days Rebecca may be feeling down, she is never out.

“The students speak about her passion for music,” said Santa Fe Band Director Mike Lowery. “They recognize it and appreciate it.

“She is always on top of the game. She is upbeat with high expectations for her students and she gets the product she expects from them.”

Coleman said she leans on faith to get her through each day.

“I feel as if the only things that get me from one day to the next are faith in God, faith in my family and the unending support I receive from my students at both Summit Middle School and Santa Fe High School,” she said.

“They give me the strength to keep going and to never quit. At the end of the school year the Santa Fe students gave me a spa package to recoup.”

And it came just in time. June 5 Coleman plans to participate in the Lupus Walk at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

May is Lupus Awareness Month 2010. To learn more about lupus, go online at www.lupus.org.

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