Comedian's death puts sarcoidosis in spotlight

Blogger's note: News about the death this last weekend of comedian Bernie Mac caught my attention in a specific way because I, too, was diagnosed with sarcoidosis more than 30 years ago.

While my life-long experience with the disease is typical: a continuing benign state with little or no known consequencies, I racall a Denver doctor who cautioned: "Guard your respiratory health and watch out for pneumonia, a possible deadly mitigating circumstance.

Well, now more than three decades later, I have not only survived pneumomia, but also a severe immune disorder that prompted mantle cell lymphoma, now in full remission. Yet, now is not the time to take anything for granted, as this story attests.

Those with sarcoidosis often live with fear of sudden death

Andrea Wilson felt sick to her stomach Saturday when she heard comedian Bernie Mac had died in a Chicago hospital.

It was her private fear—the fear of sudden death—suddenly splashed across the news.

Like Mac, Wilson has sarcoidosis, a mysterious and sometimes devastating immune system disorder that causes cells to cluster and can damage organs throughout the body.

Last year, the disease jumped to her brain and started causing stroke-like symptoms—vision changes, numbness in her left side, tingling in her face and mouth—as well as extreme pain. When sarcoidosis flares up in her skin, she gets lesions on her face, knees and legs and lumps "like cauliflower growing out of your body," said Wilson, 43, who lives in Chicago.

When it becomes active inside her heart, she gets palpitations and feels like she's going to faint or have a heart attack. Wilson has had two exploratory heart surgeries related to sarcoidosis. The disease has also made a home in her lungs, causing its signature symptoms—shortness of breath, wheezing and difficulty breathing.

There is no cure for sarcoidosis, an affliction that hits adults younger than 40 and disproportionately affects African-Americans, especially women. Sometimes the illness is mild and goes into remission, but sometimes it is severe and unremitting, causing progressive damage to multiple organs. Often misdiagnosed, sarcoidosis remains a little known disorder, even in the medical community. Source:

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