Reshma R. – Diagnosed at age 29
I am a Trinidadian-born Cayman Islands journalist and in October 2010, my life changed dramatically. It was the month I was formally diagnosed with lupus.I had been experiencing severe body pains, swollen joints, head-splitting headaches, and extreme fatigue. On the day I was diagnosed I didn’t know how to feel. All I thought as the room started to spin was “Why me? I have so much I want to achieve.”
In the months following my diagnosis, I began a hefty cocktail of steroids, painkillers, immuno-suppressants, and other drugs. As my symptoms started to become manageable and the pain less pronounced, I faced a new hurdle: dealing with bouts of depression, partly from the drugs and general ill-health, but also from the rapid weight gain. I remember looking in the mirror one day and not recognizing who I was. I burst into tears, I was angry and sad at the same time. Angry because my own body was attacking me and sad that I had no control, I felt that it was so unfair that I had to deal with this. In that moment of self-pity, I dried my tears and I decided that this was not me, not the real me. I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “You are better than this. You are stronger than this.”
The thing with lupus or auto-immune conditions is that often you cannot see the pain or the aches a person is feeling; it’s not like a broken leg or arm, which you can see. This is why compassion and understanding are so important when someone is struggling with these conditions.
I am lucky to have such a supportive network from my immediate family, my close friends, and colleagues.Opening up about lupus has been scary, but I am hoping that by sharing my story, others living with auto-immune conditions know that, though it may seem overwhelming, you are not alone.
The lupus warrior’s symbol is a purple butterfly, and it is so apt. During periods of lupus activity, you curl up in a cocoon of sorts, working through your pain, but emerge stronger and shine even brighter. My lupus activity has returned after a period of inactivity. Though I am faced with more challenges, I remain resolved in that commitment I made all those years ago not to let lupus ever win, and that is still the case today.