January 18, 2024
Brittany Morris was supposed to be a professional athlete. As a child, she was one of her community’s fastest track stars, a sprinter with big plans to compete as a pro-runner, at least with a scholarship to join a college team. But suddenly at 12 years old she developed confusing symptoms that doctors struggled to diagnose –including joint pain, fevers, extreme fatigue, and inflammation of the tissue around the heart that meant she couldn’t move from the couch to her bed without hyperventilating.
After a year of persistent illness amidst repeated misdiagnoses, Brittany was actually relieved to learn she had lupus, thinking now the doctors can fix the problem. As anyone with lupus knows, this wasn’t exactly the case and the young teen had to accept that her body would likely never return to what it was before. She had to trade her ambition in and went on to become a broadcast news producer. But while not her career, Brittany still defines herself as an athlete. She has competed in races of increasing difficulty over the past 20 years, culminating in what she considers her greatest triumph of completing the Iron Man 70.3 Indian Wells La Quinta triathlon, bicycling, swimming, and running for more than five hours.
“Participating in the Iron Man was the hardest thing I have ever done, and throughout training this past year I have had many setbacks when I couldn’t train and even had to be hospitalized. I have to fight really hard for the things I love, but that makes it so rewarding. And that has made me emotionally and mentally stronger.”
“While I could not pursue my dream as a professional athlete, I do feel I’ve reclaimed a little bit of Track Star Brittany over the years. She attributes her ability to gain fairly good control of her symptoms to three main lifestyle changes – eating a very nutritional, anti-inflammatory diet that includes lots of green foods, getting lots of sleep, and exercising regularly. “I started really small, slowly building up over years to being able to run 13-15 miles at a time.”
Now Brittany is looking forward to her next, perhaps most meaningful challenge, in running the 2024 United Airlines NYC Half Marathon for LRA’s Team Life Without Lupus this March. Having learned of LRA’s Team on Instagram, her fundraising for this race means publicly sharing the lupus diagnosis for the first time on social media. “I never wanted to show any weakness, but I have come to realize that through lupus, I have developed incredible strength.”
“Running the half-marathon is physically far easier than the Iron Man, but it’s still hard. My coach Audra Adair developed a training schedule tailored specifically to my lupus. I hope to show that a lot is possible for people with lupus to achieve. By raising research dollars and disease awareness, I am hoping to help find answers that unlock the ability for others who suffer from lupus to feel empowered to try things that might seem impossible.”
2024 is a year of firsts for Team Life Without Lupus – the majority of our Team, seven out of 10—are able to run despite having lupus! Also, for the first time, a member of our own staff, Executive Director of our affiliate Lupus Therapeutics Dr. Stacie Bell and her 16-year-old daughter have joined the Team.
Brittany shared, “My biggest cheerleaders who have been with me every step of every day, my mom and partner Ryan, plan to travel from Arizona to keep me pumped at the Marathon in NYC.” But we can all show up for her and the entire Team with donations and/or providing moral support along the challenging marathon route. Click here to learn more.