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ANNA



       Being diagnosed...

Most people turning 18 don't have a care in the world, they're nearly adults and life is just really starting. About a month before my 18th birthday I thought I had the flu. It was the most horrible feeling ever- my whole body ached, every single joint from my fingers, wrists, elbows, neck, back, knees, ankles, feet, just everything on my body throbbed. I slept for days, and I was in far too much pain to get out of bed.

After about a month of the "flu" we went on vacation for spring break to Florida and everything was fine again. However, returning home again it appeared as though I had either not finished my bout with the "flu" or caught it again. My mom was worried I might have got Malaria or some virus while visiting Papua New Guinea the past summer, and she took me straight to her Rheumatologist (she has arthritis). I was told I may have Malaria, or "mono" but he was pretty sure it was Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupus. After the test results came back, my Doctor diagnosed me with Lupus. I really didn't know much about Lupus, just that my aunt had had it, and she died.



       School Life...

I went back to high school that day and walked around in a daze. I talked to one of my friends and I told her I had Lupus and I just broke down in tears. My best girlfriend came down the hall and she started crying with me because she knew if I was upset, that meant my visit to the doctor had not gone well. I couldn't attend class that day; I just kept feeling sorry for myself, wondering what I had done to deserve such a horrible disease. My friends were really supportive and there for me; one went to tell my teachers what was wrong with me. She told my biology teacher that I had Lupus and his face went grave. I've realized from then on that like myself, not many people actually understood the severity of some lupus cases, and he was one of the few that actually knew what that meant. He said I didn't have to attend the lectures that day. After informing my house teachers (there were four), elective class teachers (three or four more), and the school nurse of my conditions, everybody was very supportive and said for me to do what I have to do. The nurse sent emails out to all the teachers to remind them that I may eat in class (since sometimes I couldn't eat in the mornings because my medications restricted food or drink). The nurse also let me sleep in her office for many days out of the week because the fatigue was often horrible. School life was okay because everybody actually tried to understand my condition.


       Medication and side effects...

Some of the medications I was first given included (and excuse my spelling): Plaquenil, Prednisone, Methotrexate, Actonol, and Ultram (generic version Tramadol). The Prednisone caused (in my opinion) horrible acne, puffiness in the face, bone density loss, lowered my immune system, and caused slight depression. Fortunately for me, I'm only about 100 lbs., so I didn't actually care about too much weight gain, not did it effect me in any noticeable way. The Actonol was supposed to counteract the bone loss from the Prednisone, but unfortunately, when I went in for a bone density test, the Prednisone had affected me more negatively than the doctor had anticipated. Although I drink lots of milk and get lots of calcium, I suffer from osteoporosis, and my bones are probably as brittle as an elderly person.


       Recently...

After the doctor lowered my dose of Prednisone, I eventually got off of most of my drugs, which made me happier- no more acne, no more depression. I felt much better, looked better and had a healthier attitude. Currently it's been 2 years since I was first diagnosed and I'm only taking Plaquenil, and Methotrexate regularly and Ultram whenever I have flare ups. Lately my flares have been when the weather is cold or rainy, and unfortunately for me, I live in Minnesota, which means the cold, snowy and horrible weather is coming once again. It's been three days since I've felt as bad as when I was first diagnosed with Lupus and my Ultram isn't helping (I just want to sleep because the pain won't go away). I'm rescheduling a doctor's appointment 6 months earlier than planned because I cannot make it through this winter if my medication isn't adjusted. I have a handicapped sticker and have used it mostly for school since it's a long walk from the parking lot when your joints are in pain and I'm sure I'll be using it throughout this winter. I've never attended any support groups because my condition does not look like anything is wrong with me and I'm somewhat shy but I still would like to in the near future. All in all, I've been doing well. Dealing with college stress and working at an animal hospital are new adjustments I'm making but I still believe that I can reach my dream of becoming a Veterinarian, I won't let Lupus interfere with my life.


*Anna Gonzalez*

©2004