|Boston Celtics player Chris Wilcox|
Chris’s commitment to this cause began because of a family history of lupus. Two of his aunts died of the autoimmune disease, but the worst blow came when his sister, Tehesia, was diagnosed with lupus at the age of 17, while still a high school senior. Two of his cousins also have the disease.
Tehesia was prompted to get tested for lupus after she started to suffer from aching joints and skin rashes. After her diagnosis, her doctors determined that she also had kidney involvement.
“Lupus had already claimed my aunts’ lives, but nothing had prepared me for the sadness of seeing my sister suffer from this mysterious disease,” Wilcox says. “That, for me, underscored the need to raise lupus awareness and to someday find a cure.”
Tehesia, who says she consistently battles severe musculoskeletal pain and fatigue, says living with the disease is a daily battle for her—but it is one she manages to take in stride because of her family’s support.
“My brother has been my rock since the day I learned I had lupus,” says Tehesia Wilcox. “Even when Chris was just 10 years old, he was always there for me, asking if I was okay and if I needed anything. Now he uses his celebrity to bring attention to this disease. I am so proud of him, both for the tremendous work he does on the court and for those of us who live with lupus.”
Chris Wilcox is involved in several lupus education and fundraising efforts. Each year he organizes the Power Forward to Cure Lupus Golf Outing, an annual charity event that raises funds for lupus research. Last year, he and his wife, Tiffany, offered their support to walkers in Boston at the city’s inaugural Walk for Lupus Now™ organized by the Lupus Foundation of America. The walk, the largest of its kind, has been now renamed Walk to End Lupus Now™. The Wilcox’s supported Lexi’s Lupus Warriors, a team of 50 walkers assembled by Lexi Buswell that raised $13,000 toward lupus. Buswell, 11, was diagnosed with lupus in 2011.
Wilcox, who grew up in Whiteville, North Carolina, is also a supporter of the Lupus Foundation of America’s education program, the Help Us Solve the Cruel Mystery™ National Tour, which stopped in the Raleigh area over this past weekend.
In addition to his work with lupus, Wilcox – who says he never misses a chance to make a positive impact on his community—is working to spread awareness about heart disease. During a routine heart screening last year, team doctors discovered that Wilcox had an enlarged aorta. He underwent a complex surgery called the Modified Davids Reimplantation Procedure in March of 2012 and thankfully has made a full recovery. Since his surgery, Wilcox has teamed up with the American Heart Association to raise awareness about the importance of heart screenings and overall heart health.
“It’s important to keep pushing for change in the right direction,” Wilcox says. “Great things happen when you keep working and getting yourself better.”