Lupus: The Musical
Ryan Hruza is an actor/musician based out of Kansas City, MO. Hruza’s pop-hip-hopera about lupus debuts this month at the Kansas City Fringe Festival. We recently connected with him to learn what inspired this original performance.
How did you come to be diagnosed with lupus?
I was diagnosed in May 2011, a few days before my 23rd birthday.
At the time, I was performing in a show that required dancing – specifically, lifting a woman in one of the numbers. At the beginning of rehearsals, I had no problem with the lift, but as time went on my knees locked up and my wrists and fingers were becoming less and less dexterous. I then developed chest pains and had some kidney involvement. It took five months and seven different specialists before my mother’s friend, who also has lupus, suggested seeing a rheumatologist. After countless tests and finding the right doctors, I was diagnosed with lupus.
At the time, I knew that lupus existed, but had no idea what it meant. The doctor provided what I’m sure was very helpful information, but all I remember from that day is feeling alone and worried about the future.
What lifestyle changes did you make as a result of your diagnosis?
After finding the right medications to keep my lupus under control, I was able to get out of the initial flare. After that, I found that I did well with exercise, a healthy diet and positive thinking. I learned that my body felt better when I accepted the change, rather than wallowing in self-pity and self-doubt.
It’s been 5 years since your diagnosis. Looking back, what has been the biggest impact?
I know every case is different, and thankfully, other than a few flare ups and some kidney involvement, I haven’t been hit as hard as some others. But I’ve begun to look at lupus as a gift rather than a curse.
I have more empathy for people, more drive to find what I’m really passionate about. Lupus showed me who really cared about me, who was a true friend and, most importantly, it showed me how strong I am. The greatest challenge of living with lupus has simply been the acknowledgement that I’m living with it. To make sure I do what I need to do to help calm the untamable beast that lupus is, so I can live my life.
How has lupus affected your work as a performer?
I’ve found a lot of hope and solace in writing. I currently am writing a pop/hip-hop opera about my struggles with lupus, the strain it has on relationships, on family and on work. It’s called the Lupus Chronic(SLE) and will be debuting in July at the Kansas City Fringe Festival.
I found there weren’t many stories about people with lupus, especially in the world of theater, so I wrote this musical to spread awareness.