Talia Moore and Sherita Carthon are both in the public eye, both have
bubbly personalities and both face the recent onset of a chronic condition.
Sherita, a graphic designer and public speaker, remembers the day
a little over a year ago when she was diagnosed with lupus. The condition
varies from person to person, causing inflammation, pain and a range
of symptoms that can be fatal.
At the time of her first flare up, she had just completed a graphic
design project in Binghamton, NY, where she lived at the time, and
was heading to her car.
As I crossed the street, I felt dizzy and wobbly, my joints
throbbed and I passed out. She collapsed in the middle of a
major intersection. But God was watching out for me, she
says, because two guys ran out in traffic, and helped me to
the other side of the street. Later she went to the hospital
to get checked out.
The onset of lupus for sister, Talia, was more gradual. Shed
felt stiffness in her joints, experienced exhaustion and endured back
spasms over five years, but didnt take the symptoms seriously
until two years ago after she got progressively worse and was forced
to see a doctor.
I got so fatigued that my body went limp. She could see
the worry on her husbands face as she remained in bed for days
at a time, nauseated and feeling as if her system had shut down. Her
doctor gave her a dual diagnosis: lupus along with fibromyalgia.
Lupus can damage skin, joints and organs within the body, particularly
the kidneys, and scientists speculate that people who develop the
disease are actually born with it. It is believed to remain latent
until something triggers it.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) has the term systemic as
its first name because it affects virtually every system in the body,
says ABILITY Magazine's medical editor, Thomas Chappell MD. Lupus is Latin
for wolf, because of the characteristic rash on the cheeks that supposedly
looks like the person was bitten by a wolf, and finally erythematosis,
which also refers to redness or rash on the skin, he adds.
Fibromyalgia, which also affects Talia, causes long-term pain throughout
the body and tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons and soft tissues.
Sometimes its hard for her to know where one condition stops
and the other starts.
The twins reactions to the lupus diagnoses were not at all identical.
While Talia says she wasnt shocked by what her doctor told her,
Sherita felt a sense of panic and became convinced that she would
die and for good reason.
Only a month or so before she collapsed in the street, Sheritas
mentor, LaShunda Rundles, died of lupus. Rundles was the 2008 Toastmasters
World Champion of Public Speaking.
LaShunda would say it was painful for her to get through her
speeches, Sherita recalls. The former toastmaster had a severe
case of the disease that ultimately required dialysis. Yet the young
dynamo bested all the other speakers to emerge as the first African-American
woman to take the Toastmasters top prize. Just four years later,
in August 2012, Rundles succumbed to lupus.
It was so traumatic that I equated lupus with death, Sherita
After their diagnoses, both sisters dove into medical research to
learn about their options. Ultimately, they overhauled their diets.
They now eat more dark greens, and consume less red meat, sugar, cows
milk and salt. They also favor gluten-free foods, drink a lot more
water and take vitamin supplements.
If you create balance in your life, you can manage it,
Talia said, but its always something thats there.
You feel a tightening in your muscles and bones, and its very
painful. Mine is more like stress in my back and spasms every night.
Though she takes muscle relaxers and ibuprofen, Talia finds that nothing
helps for long.
Lupus is tricky, says Dr. Chappell. As an autoimmune disease
it is characterized by a poorly understood phenomenon whereby our
immune systems see components of themselves as foreign, attacking
and rejecting them as if they were a virus or bacteria. As you can
imagine, this causes chaos in the body.
While both avow the calming power of prayer, they have different perspectives
on working out. Talia finds that exercise can be too draining, whereas
Sherita has ramped up her exercise routine considerably. She and new
husband, Mark, hit the gym frequently, often posting Facebook photos
of themselves with towels around their necks as they exit a workout
They initially met more than two decades ago at Cleveland School of
the Arts, and then reestablished their friendship on Facebook (FB) over
the last couple of years, delighting in the fact that their feelings
developed into something deeper.
When we reconnected, I saw that he was working out, and I had
also started working out in New York. Now its something we do
together, more consistently than I did before, Sherita says.
At the gym, she chooses exercises, such as the elliptical machine,
that are gentle on the joints. When a flare up hits, she lies down
and lets it roll through, warning her husband: I cant
work out as hard today.
The sisters, who were born prematurely just over 35 years ago, report
that theyve battled health issues before:
Talia and I have had a few medical problems since we were kids.
We came a couple of months early and still had some growing to do.
They stayed in the hospital three months after birth so that they
could gain weight and develop under the watchful eye of hospital staff.
Sherita remembers being monitored from 4 years old until they were
teenagers at Rainbow Babies & Childrens Hospital in Cleveland.
Weve dealt with signs of leaky gut, intestinal problems,
and other challenges, she says. In recent years, the sisters
have been hospitalized a few times with lupus-related challenges.
Lupus tends to mark those who have it: Theres often a
rash across the bridge of the nose and cheeks in the pattern of a
butterflyoften called a butterfly rashwhich defines the
disease, but the brain, heart and lungs are not spared, Dr.
Chappell says. Theres also a combination of arthritis,
abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, due to the conditions impact
on the digestive tract. These symptoms combine with fatigue and overall
Adding insult to injury are lupus perplexing symptoms
of sensitivity to light, unexplained fevers, mouth sores and hair
loss, Dr. Chappell continues. While the condition does
not discriminate among our organ systems, it does tend to affect mostly
women, and mostly African-American and Asian women. Although its
not understood why, it certainly suggests a genetic phenomenon.
As a playwright, Talia finds that her flare-ups are more intense when
she is in the middle of a production. The busy mother is frequently
writing a new show and is currently in negotiations to acquire and
restore Binghamtons Cameo Theater, which was built in 1930 and
closed permanently in 2002.
She relocated to Binghamton more than a decade ago after college with
her oldest daughter, Antanaja, now 13, and husband, Derrick, so that
he could pursue a career opportunity. Their youngest daughter, Rayn,
In recent years, sister Sherita has lived off and on between Binghamton,
where her mother and brother also relocated, and Cleveland, where
the family started out. She has a boy, Akil, 16, and a girl, Aalayah,
13, from her first marriage.
Talias career as a playwright is gaining steam. Shes now
working on a show called In My Mothers Shoes, inspired by The
Wiz; presenting a performance piece on domestic abuse entitled Remember
By Name; and recently mounted a production of her original play, Sneakin
Wit The Deacon. Over the course of Summer 2013, she led a theater
workshop program for youths with the Broome County (NY) Urban League.
Meanwhile in Cleveland, Sherita, who remarried in March, is in the
midst of a career change. She spent nearly 20 years as a graphic design
artist, but is now transitioning into the motivational speaker and
mentoring arena. Recently she hosted a 12-week workshop series called
Back To Being You, to support people as they learn new
ways to navigate personal growth. As a public speaker, she recently
topped out at the regional level of a Toastmasters international
Next year I hope to go even further, Sherita says. Speaking
is my purpose. Its the one thing that I can do without fail
that gives to others, while also feeding my spirit. Its truly
what I would do, even if I were not paid for it, she adds.
The demands of being in the public eye and pleasing an audience can
add additional layers to the siblings efforts to manage self-care.
When Im most calm and not worried about too many things,
lupus doesnt affect me. But when I start to stress and take
on more than I should, or Im in the middle of a production,
it flares up, says Talia. On the final day of her last show,
her symptoms went into overdrive. The demands of dealing with a cast
and crew, of opening a new show, and battling the nerves that go with
it proved overwhelming.
I didnt want to display my stress in front of everyone,
so I did the meet and greet, went home and thats when a spasm
hit. She stayed in bed until 11 the next morning. When she finally
ventured out, she headed straight to a place where she could get spa
treatments to boost herself up.
The twins initially resisted slowing down, but they havent had
much of a choice.
My sister is a roadrunner, Sherita says of Talia, she
always goes, goes, goes, so to see her in a state where she can barely
move came as a big surprise. Im a roadrunner too, but this disease
has calmed me down a lot. My husband takes care of the household financially,
which allows me to take a break and step back. On her worst
days, she says, Id rather go through childbirth than have
a lupus flare.
Some days both sisters report being symptom free and running
like 20 year olds, the normal pace for them before the disease
struck. They imagine that there are a lot of roadrunners out there
who have the condition but dont know it, or worse ignore the
symptoms until they become too difficult to manage.
Sherita, who recently moved back to their hometown, Cleveland, married
Mark Carthon, Sr., who himself has been battling a health challenge
or two in the last few years, which brought them closer, and made
them more compassionate towards one another.
There are some days, Sherita added, that Ive
thought: God just take me home. If I didnt have
my husband, Id be a basket case. ....
in ABILITY Magazine
You can read
the complete article and the full magazine, including all of the photos
in our Digi issue, by clicking HERE.
from the Loni
Jack Eyers Modeling his Way!
Chinas Ye Tingfang
Drs. Scott and Wiener
Excerpt Human Rights
Anderson Caring for You
Twins Sisters and Lupus
New Research Disability and the Workplace
Senator Harkin The ADA Generation
in the Loni Anderson Issue; Senator HarkinThe ADA Generation;
Ashley Fiolek No More Red Eyes; Humor Holiday Cheer;
Paula Pearlman Lets Go Further to Protect People; Geri
Jewell Congress Needs a Reboot; Long Haul Paul Stella!
; Twins Sisters and Lupus; Excerpt Human Rights; Jack
Eyers Modeling his Way!; Chinas Ye Tingfang; Loni
Anderson Caring for You; Rebecca Tripp A Natural Tree
Hugger; Magical Meeting Drs. Scott and Wiener; ABILITY's Crossword
Puzzle; Events and Conferences...