BA star DeMar DeRozan brings fans to their feet when he sails through the air and slams the ball through the hoop. The roar of the crowd is deafening, but no one is cheering more loudly than his mother. Diane DeRozan has been her son’s biggest fan since he first stepped onto a basketball court as a grade-schooler.

The support is mutual

DeMar has been there for his mother since she was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic disease in which the immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks healthy tissue, causing inflammation, swelling, and damage to joints, skin, and organs. Like many others with the disease, Diane suffers from fatigue and severe pain in her legs.

“It was tough for my family when she was first diagnosed because we were facing a disease we knew little about,” DeMar says, looking back a dozen years. “Then it was all about helping her manage the ups and downs, and the pain.”

Throughout his seven seasons with the Toronto Raptors, DeMar, a two-time NBA All-Star and a member of the American basketball team that recently won gold at the Summer Olympics, has helped his mother as much as possible. He has ensured she has a knowledgeable, proactive doctor and the appropriate medication. Most importantly, he makes her feel supported and loved.

"Anyone can get it, young or old. Lupus can come out of nowhere."

“Educate yourself on the disease and then be there to support your loved one as much as you can,” DeMar says, advising others caring for someone with lupus. “Try to make them comfortable and help take their mind off of [the disease]. The best thing you can do is love them.”

Inspiration on and off the court

His devotion to his mother is unswerving. “My mother is the strongest woman I know,” DeMar says. “She inspired me long before she was diagnosed with lupus. She’s always been a fighter. Throughout her battle with the disease, she has never made excuses. She always tries to make the best of her situation with grace and courage.”

Moved by her struggle, DeMar has become an ambassador for Lupus Canada. He strives to make people aware that there is no cure for lupus and that, even though most sufferers are women, “anyone can get it, young or old,” he says. “Lupus can come out of nowhere.”