Ashley Canty doesn’t let the illness crimp her lifestyle.
Ashley Canty, a senior at Norfolk State University from Glen Allen, knows the importance of sufficient rest, but it's difficult as an active college student. On top of her summer school courses, the mass communications/broadcast major is a disc jockey who goes by "A. Shant'e" for a radio show from 6 to 10 a.m. Saturdays at WNSB Hot 91 FM, the university's urban hip-hop and R&B station. She also is part of a production company for which she videotapes local talent contests at Virginia Beach every Wednesday evening.
"You have to get your rest. If not, eventually you're going to crash and burn," the 22-year-old says. Getting eight hours of sleep a night is ideal, but Canty also believes in naps. "If you have an opportunity to take a nap, go for it."
For Canty, the onset of lupus occurred when she was 12. She stopped eating, started drinking a lot of water and felt fatigued no matter how much she slept. That led to a month or two at Henrico Doctors' Hospital, where physicians ran test after test to identify the problem. Finally a rheumatologist examined her and started her on steroids – her lifeline. She spent an additional month at Children's Hospital in Richmond, relearning everyday skills such as reading and studying. Physical therapy to strengthen her muscles and get her walking normally again continued in outpatient care.
She pauses in recounting her story to recall the past 10 years. "That's a long time living with lupus," she states. Canty says she appreciates support from the Lupus Foundation of Virginia and its chair, Della Hunter, who came by her hospital room after she was diagnosed. "She's always been there from the beginning."
Canty believes in educating others about the disease. She has given three lectures at Norfolk State, telling her story and providing information about lupus. She also enjoys helping people with disabilities and has served as a mentor with the "Say Yes to College" program that encourages people with disabilities to seek higher education.
Her days this summer are filled with excitement and the promise of opportunity as she heads toward graduation in December. She and a male student from Norfolk State were chosen to make a video as part of a chance for an all-expense paid trip to South Africa during the World Cup from the Coca-Cola Co. The video addressed how the soft-drink company's program to bring fresh water back to Africa inspired the student team. Canty and her partner were two of 21 students who won the weeklong trip.
She also has auditioned and advanced to the second round of competition for "Your OWN Show: Oprah's Search for the Next TV Star." The winner of the series will host a talk show produced for OWN, Oprah Winfrey's new network, next year.
Of lupus, she says, "I don't let it crimp my lifestyle. I'm destined for great things. I'm too fabulous to let lupus get me down.
"Nowadays, I wake up with a little morning stiffness, hop in the shower, do little exercises in the shower, lifts to get the blood moving and get the inflammation of out my knees, and get on with my day."