I have a special treat for everyone today. My first guest blogger!
The guest blogger for today is my best friend and twin sister, Lauren. Lauren was recently diagnosed with lupus. If you don’t know what lupus is, she explains it rather nicely in her post. Lauren approached me about writing a blog post about her recent journey with lupus and how it has changed her approach to life. Her journey has been focused on a healthy life and something I think we can all learn from.
5 Life Lessons I learned After Diagnosed with Lupus
I have Lupus. See, I said it.
My newly diagnosed disease can be very complex, frustrating, painful, exhausting, emotional…. simply put, a rollercoaster.
For those who do not know, lupus is a non-curable auto-immune disease which affects joints and organs. Or how I like to think about it, my immune system is hyperactive an overachiever. My body thinks something is wrong, so my own body attacks my joints and organs. Since June I woke up with hand pain which spread to my elbows, shoulders, feet, knees and multiple joints. By September I was in so much pain I could barely put toothpaste on my tooth brush and I even dreaded my boss giving me a high five because it hurt so much. I tried everything I could think of: icing, heat, ibuprofen, chiropractor, ace bandages, massages…. Nothing helped. My family and boyfriend encouraged me to see a doctor and after three months of pain, I finally realized they were all right.
I started with an orthopedic who ruled out carpal tunnel within two minutes of our appointment and took some blood tests. The initial tests indicated a high ANA (Antinuclear antibodies which are made by white blood cells) count which led me to a rheumatologist. Within a week of taking yet another intense round of blood tests everything pointed to lupus. Even knowing my diagnosis, my symptoms continued to worsen because my body continued to be in so much stress. The week after I was diagnosed I caught a small cold which led to my largest flare up yet. I had trouble walking and was in bed for 3 days.
Over the past few months, we have been through some tough physical changes but also emotional (when I say WE I am talking about myself, my family and amazing boyfriend). Being hit with something like lupus is very difficult because we know it will be a battle I have to fight through every stage of life. However, I didn’t want to write about my symptoms. I want to express what I learned after diagnosed with lupus that everyone, lupus or not, should know.
1. Your body has a voice.
As a college athlete (Track & Field Thrower), I put my body through so much. At the time, I was that woman who could back squat over 220 lbs. After my college career ended, I continued to compete in triathlons and half-marathons to keep my competitive drive alive. While I was proud of my accomplishments, I was in pain. Looking back and thinking about my current state, I didn’t listen to what my body really needed. Your body always gives you signs when it’s too much. Even though they are different for everyone, listen to your body. Rest is a beautiful thing.
2. Stress is evil. Very evil.
We all wish life wasn’t so stressful. Like many, I have a very stressful and demanding job. It pulls me in so many directions and by the end of the day I can’t seem to find the energy to do everything else I need to do outside of work. But what we all must do is figure what we need to prioritize or even walk away from. Stress doesn’t only ruin your day, but it puts strain on your body. Personally this is still a lesson is still struggle, but I have made it a huge priority to work on. Maybe it’s planning ahead or taking more moments to yourself. Figure out what works best for YOU.
3. Everyone needs support.
Personally, I have been blessed with an amazing support system. The day I was diagnosed my entire family was already waiting for me when I got home. They didn’t overwhelm me with questions, especially since I didn’t have any answers yet, but they sat there and simply said “We are going to tame this beast”. And most of all, my boyfriend came to my door with flowers looked me in the eyes and said “I am not going anywhere. We are doing this together.” Without their support, I wouldn’t be looking at this new change of pace as positively as I am now. Some people are also blessed with support systems outside of their family whether it’s a group girlfriends, co-workers, or an organization you joined. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you trust to talk about something you need to get off your chest.
4. Your body is a temple.
Everything you put into your body or put your body through will have some kind of effect on your body—good and bad. Even if you think you are young and invincible, your body will thank you in 25 years. You only get one body, treat it wisely.
5. Celebrate little victories, too.
Two months ago, I couldn’t even open a jar of peanut butter. And just the other day I was finally able to play catch in the backyard with my boyfriend. I may have not finished running a marathon, but both him and I know being able to throw my prefect football spiral again (…now you know why he keeps me around) is an amazing stride. Celebrate your victories. It can be as simple as making it to the gym one extra day a week. Or maybe having a productive day at work. Life is short, celebrate.
I’ll leave you with the best fortune cookie I have received in the last month:
“You’re not afraid of storms, for you’re learning to sail your ship.”