It’s likely that Alice Walker wasn’t thinking about Takisha Mundy and Amy Meachum when she sat down to write her award-winning novel, “The Color Purple.” Takisha was just beginning elementary school while Amy was challenging boundaries as a young toddler. Nevertheless, there is no better present-day example of an unbreakable bond of sisterhood and the beauty of the color purple as a reflection of hope than Takisha and Amy.
The academically gifted pair excelled at Bartram Motivation Center in Philadelphia and at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. It was no surprise to friends and family when Amy followed in her sister’s footsteps by becoming a sister of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. (Theta Lambda and later Epsilon Omega Zeta chapters). Perhaps it was fate, the luck of the draw, or the Universe that once again led the sisters down the same path. Just one year after Takisha was diagnosed with discoid lupus, Amy unknowingly began experiencing systematic lupus erythematosus (SLE) related health issues.
My sister was diagnosed with lupus a year before me and I remember that time so clearly. She told me while I was at work. I was being supportive and saying we would get through this like everything else. Once we got off the phone, I researched the disease and immediately started crying and knowing I needed to get to her. I left early that day and went straight to her. She is always so strong and doesn’t like others to know she is feeling anything other than herself. So before I was diagnosed we would talk about it (more like I would yell at her for not taking her meds) but I never fully understood until I was diagnosed.
Excruciating joint and back pain nearly debilitated Amy during the summer of 2011; even still she never considered that lupus was slowly attacking her body. “My life has changed drastically because of this illness. My illness has gotten to the point of barely being able to walk without help, lift things, drive, do daily activities,” she said.
During an extended stay in the hospital, Amy stopped breathing during treatment. Her body was full of fluid, her hair fell out in clumps and her kidneys entered stage 4 renal failure. She was eventually allowed to go home but was placed on disability leave from work. Her rheumatologist and nephrologist were able to get her into remission with an aggressive treatment plan.
The first 4 years of dealing with everything I would sit in the house with the TV off, no noise around and just think. I was so down I wrote out my will and wishes for my burial. I would put on a face to my sister, boyfriend, family, and friend closes to me. On the outside I was okay, but the inside would feel empty and full of pain. Knowing this disease could one day take my life is a hard pill to swallow and I can’t say I have accepted that, but I have decided to live. I do what I can when I can and always overwork myself. I pay for it days later; walk a little further then maybe I should carry a little too much then I should. I interact and do activities I know I shouldn’t. I do these things because I don’t want lupus to beat me.
Takisha was diagnosed with discoid lupus prior to Amy’s SLE diagnosis; however, the disease progressed rapidly in Amy’s immune system requiring her to be hospitalized. In protective big sister form, Takisha searched for ways to help carry the load. “My sister once told me that she wants to get my form of lupus so I don’t have to go through this alone. As much as I love her I wanted to punch her. I never wanted her to go through this (but) more and more I see her symptoms converting over to mine. I am terrified and feel helpless,” says Amy.
Takisha acknowledges that the disease is finally impacting her life in ways she cannot ignore. “Butterflies are no longer pretty to me,” says Takisha. “I don’t even really like to look in the mirror anymore. If I do, I find myself picking at my face staring at the marks and becoming upset. Living with pain is an adjustment. A new fear of not wanting to become addicted to pain meds is growing.”
Nevertheless, like everything else in life the sisters believe they will get through this together. They are each other’s light during the storm. They are cheerleaders, nursemaids, and friends; but most of all they are sisters.
In Alice Walker’s novel, the color purple is reflective of God’s love, beauty, and hope for a better tomorrow. Like Takisha and Amy, those living with lupus embrace the color purple as they battle the illness, strive to enhance awareness, and increase funding for a cure. “Lupus patients embody the meaning behind the color purple every day. They are inspiring individuals who…have such uplifting and gentle spirits. Instead of constantly worrying about themselves and their needs, they often reach out to others who are faced with lupus in an attempt to create a powerful community of support and strength,” (LFA, 2016 ).
Amy and Takisha are at peace on their current journey. It’s just something else these three-time sisters have in common. In addition to supporting each other, they teamed up to recruit family and friends to put on their purple laces and walk for a cure each June at the Xfinity Live Philadelphia. (Feel free to donate to Team Sissy’s Lupie). The sisters wear purple for themselves, each other, and the millions of others fighting this disease.
You and me, Us never part
You and me, Us have one heart
Ain’t no ocean, ain’t no sea
Keep my sistah way from me
(The Color Purple)