One Patient's Positive Perspectives

Blackfoot River in western Montana

I have always been fond of nature, but would not describe myself as a nature nut.  When you cannot spend more than 15 minutes in the sun without aggravating lupus, its kind of difficult to enjoy the great outdoors, unless you are willing to sit by a lake braving the mosquitoes and gnats to go midnight fishing for catfish.

This evening I had a nice chat with my brother who lives in Montana.  He is pretty down-to-earth and a true lover of nature in the purest sense.  He is an amazing fisherman, and a brilliant, quietly intelligent man.

A few years ago, the two of us went fishing early one cold September Montana dawn on the Blackfoot River (the same river in the movie “A River Runs Through It”.)  That morning we caught several 20 inch trout and whitefish, and took them home for a wonderful breakfast.  We were back home with our bountiful catch long before the morning sun hit the chilly river banks.

My brother really understands nature as very few people do.  He can look under a rock on the shore of lake or river, and tell from the tiny creatures in the mud what kind of fish are swimming down in the depths of water below.

This evening, we started by talking about our aging dad, and then ended up discussing ozone.  I’m not sure how we got there, but with my brother, a wonderful conversation can meander through a countryside of topics and arrive at some of the most interesting destinations!

North Pole ozone hole?

My brother got to telling me about recent news of a hole forming in the arctic ozone layer.  In Montana, the arctic almost counts as local news.  I admitted I knew very little about the ozone layer (and have always shrugged off the fluorocarbon hype.)   Going on into the ozone layer, we chatted some about lightning, O2 (oxygen) and O3 (ozone) molecules and how they are formed and destroyed.

Leave it to my brother to gab with me about ideas as diverse as fishing for trout, and ozone in the atmosphere.  He is not a predictable fellow, and talking with him is an adventure and education every time.

While my brother explained ozone creation and destruction, I Googled “north pole ozone hole.”  I found a wonderful recent article on the National Geographic website precisely discussing our topic of the evening.  I went back to read it later, and enjoyed the beautiful picture heading the story, with a touch of the aurora borealis in the background.  What an interesting read!

A took an interesting tidbit away from the environmental news article to apply to lupus.  I learned that the ozone layer filters out UV light, and that thin ozone filters less and allows more UV to pass through the atmosphere.  The article explains that the effect of thinning ozone is seasonally increased, especially during the spring.

Although the article did not mention lupus specifically, I could clearly see the lupus-application of excellent admonitions about sunburn and skin cancer found in the article:

“The stratosphere’s global blanket of ozone—about 12 miles (20 kilometers) above Earth—blocks most of the sun’s high-frequency ultraviolet (UV) rays from hitting Earth’s surface, largely preventing sunburn and skin cancer.”

“A good message for people [is] to just be aware that this is a year where ozone will be likely thinner this spring.”

“You should watch out for your skin and put on your sunscreen.”

A lupus patients should be aware that UV light can trigger flares due to increased activity of ANA (anti-nuclear antibodies) when the UV passes through the layers of a lupus patient’s skin and strikes ANA in her body’s tissues.

So, I guess if I am going to let the sun warm my shoulders for that extra moment or two, I’d better be careful to put on the sun screen first.

So, let’s be careful out there,  and don’t forget the sunscreen!


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