Awareness Month: Living with an Incurable Condition

October is Awareness month, calling attention to different causes, disorders, and conditions. Invisible Illness Awareness Week was from September 28 through October 4, and the entire month of October is dedicated to lupus, dysautonomia, and breast cancer awareness. With so many people struggling with diseases and conditions, I wanted to take a look at the similar problems faced by a character who lives with an incurable condition in the Harry Potter series.

Remus Lupin is a character in J.K. Rowling’s work that suffers from a condition that isn’t fully understood in society, causing people to fear and discriminate against him. Rowling has said that Lupin’s lycanthropy is a metaphor for HIV/AIDS, representing the difficulties faced by someone who was infected at a young age and how that infection has influenced their social interactions and produced a fear of getting too close in relationships. While this metaphor is obvious in many ways, I have always read Lupin’s condition as similar to other Muggle disorders such as fibromyalgia (a chronic pain illness), lupus (an autoimmune disease), and dysautonomia (a malfunction of the nervous system) that are not fully understood and are still without a definite cure. There are medications to help subdue the symptoms of these disorders, rather like how Lupin takes the Wolfsbane Potion to improve his comfort during the full moon, but there is no way to absolutely put an end to the problem. This means people have to push forward and work through discomfort in their day-to-day lives.

During the full moon, Lupin suffers a flare-up rather like those brought on by chronic disorders. Lupin has to miss work since he sleeps in his office in werewolf form, while flare-ups in the Muggle world cause similar lifestyle disruptions. Lupin had trouble finding work before teaching at Hogwarts for reasons connected to his lycanthropy. People diagnosed with chronic disorders may have trouble performing certain work-related duties because of their symptoms. A friend of mine suffers from fibromyalgia, which hinders her ability to lift heavy things since her pain concentrates in her back and shoulders. Working at a photography studio became difficult since she had to load and unload equipment for location shoots. These are the kinds of struggles that millions of individuals face every day.

Lupin is a positive example of how you can live a full life even with the setbacks that come with chronic disorders. He is able to fight for a cause he is passionate about and eventually have a happy marriage and bring a son into the world. Most importantly, Lupin was a hero. A hero with a chronic disorder is a great inspiration to anyone who faces similar obstacles in their Muggle life.