Living with Lupus: Nicole Hester-Francis

In 1997, during my 3rd year of College, I was diagnosed with SLE. Our daughter, Alicia, was just three years old at the time. Needless to say, I was devastated beyond belief. I had no clue of what to expect, I had no clue of how painful the days ahead would get. I had no clue of the physical challenges, changes and limitations lupus would pose on my body. I had no clue of how far my will would be tested. With a strong drive to succeed and my family in my heart, fueling my spirit every step of the way, I couldn't let lupus destroy me or my dreams. In the Spring of 1998, I received my first Bachelor's Degree, just 9 months after I was diagnosed. I continued to push, my body and spirit for 10 challenging but amazing years. I enjoyed the success of my career until my body, in 2007, 'cried out' to me with a massive flare-up, involving inflammation of my heart and liver. I was hospitalized on three separate occasions, that year. I reluctantly, listened to my doctors and said goodbye to a career that I worked so hard to achieve. I felt as if I'd lost my purpose, with my health and my life rapidly crumbling before me and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

It was going on 10 years, since my initial diagnoses and during those years, I could never seem to build-up enough courage to step foot into a Lupus Support Group Meeting. Until October 2007, when I walked into my very 1st meeting, located in Coral Springs. Needless to say, from that first day moving forward, I have forged some unexpected amazing friendships, as well as becoming a LFA Facilitator. The SE Florida chapter has helped me to see that they are more than just an organization that runs and/or organizes walks/ fundraisers. My local chapter has helped me and my family through some extremely difficult times. In addition to support groups, they have helped me maneuver through the red tape of my insurance company. I had given up hope that I was going to be able to continue to receive my treatment, Benlysta due to higher insurance copays. The SE Florida Chapter put me in touch with a copay assistance program. Even with that program, I ran into more red tape. The chapter jumped in again and spoke with a supervisor, who confirmed that all my paper work was in place and confirmed my co-pay assistance was approved.

Through this journey that seems at times unbearable and unpredictable, to say the least, I have learned that I can rely on the support and services of the SE Florida chapter. They are there willing and able to assist in areas that we may need extra support in understanding or getting through. I now give back by moderated an online chat in the Lupus Link Up, the chapter's online lupus community. Hope to see you there!