SHARON Ponsonby suffered five miscarriages and was told she had cancer, epilepsy and brain tumours before the birth of her first child.

SHARON Ponsonby suffered five miscarriages and was told she had cancer, epilepsy and brain tumours before the birth of her first child.

The 41-year-old, who suffers from lupus, credits St Thomas’ Lupus Trust with giving her a life and her children, and wants to spread the word about the illness that she has battled for over 20 years.

She has also arranged a Ladies’ Night at the George in Ramsey on March 19 to raise funds for the unit.

Known as “the great mimic”, lupus is a condition that causes the immune system to turn against itself – instead of protecting the body, it attacks it.

Its symptoms are so varied, and awareness of the condition so low, that it is often mis-diagnosed.

“For so long, they didn’t know what I had,” said Sharon, who was diagnosed just eight years ago. “They told me I had cancer, epilepsy, brain tumours. You have all these symptoms and you begin to think people won’t believe you.”

After five miscarriages, pioneering treatment from the trust, based at St Thomas’s Hospital in London – Europe’s only dedicated lupus unit – helped her and husband Neil to have their first child, Ben, now eight.

Sharon suffered five more miscarriages before her second son George was born two-and-a-half years ago.

“Thirty years ago you were just told you can’t have children if you have lupus and that you are going to die,” said Sharon, of Blacksmiths Close, Ramsey Forty Foot.

“Research has moved on so far since then, but so many people still don’t know about lupus.”

The condition affects more than 60,000 in the UK, and more women than men. It causes the immune system to produce too many antibodies, which then set about attacking the body.

Its symptoms include fatigue, rashes, allergies, depression and kidney failure, and it can be life-threatening.

Sharon said: “If one person hears about it and gets tested, then I will feel I have achieved something.

“The trust has done such marvellous work for me – it has given me a life and given me the chance to have two children.

“I want to raise as much as I can, and to raise awareness of lupus so that others know about it.”

On a regime of 30 pills a day, and with weekly chemotherapy sessions to keep the lupus under control, Sharon has to deal with Crohn’s disease, thyroid problems, rheumatoid arthritis, skin rashes, dry eyes and heart, kidney and lung problems caused by lupus.

“I’m probably not going to live long enough to see my kids grow up,” she said. “The doctors give you a life expectancy, but it’s not going to be the lupus that kills me, it will be diseases caused by it.”

Despite not knowing how she will feel from one day to the next, Sharon remains upbeat and, with the help of close friend Jacqui McKenzie, is determined to raise as much money as possible.

“I have witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of lupus on Sharon’s quality of life,” said Jacqui.

“I have seen just how severe and debilitating lupus can be, and also how amazing Sharon is, that she is able battle past her condition and work so hard to try and repay St Thomas’ Lupus Trust for the support they have been able to afford her over the last eight years.”

INFORMATION: The Ladies’ Night will be held at the George in Ramsey on March 19. Tickets are priced at £10 and available from Sharon on 01487 711876 or Jacqui on 01487 815562.