Tara H. - Diagnosed at age 38
Everything concerning my health concerns began in late 2016 when I started experiencing muscle and joint pain. I attributed these pains to my passion for running since I'm a half marathon runner; however, in 2017, my condition began spiraling downward with strong brain fog to the point where I would walk into a room with a purpose and within seconds forget what that purpose was. Fatigue worsened, stress was very high at my job and depression started to set in. I've been in the Air Force since 2006 and love serving! I couldn't understand why I was feeling this way and went many times to my primary doctor who continuously trialed various medications because she couldn't understand my pain. She just stated it might be fibromyalgia.
For four months I took physical therapy treatments with no relief. Dryness in my eyes, mouth, and vagina was prevalent and I experienced strong fatigue along with feeling very down because I didn't understand why my body would feel so weak at times and strong on other days. I requested to see a specialist in gynecology who told me I had a prolapsed uterus along with endometriosis, I was shocked, and ended up in surgery two weeks later having a partial hysterectomy. In 2018, I moved to a new position and my co-worker noticed the pain I was experiencing as well as the fatigue. She suggested I go see a rheumatologist, so I requested this specialty service referral through my primary care doctor.
At my first appointment in 2018, he evaluated me and sent me for blood work. By my next appointment I was told I had the SSA antibody and ANA negative. I will never have a positive ANA with this type of antibody. At first, he thought it was Sjogren’s Syndrome, but as my symptoms progressed I was finally diagnosed after a week-long hospitalization in 2020 with lupus (SLE). It's been a long journey with 3-4 flares per year that last longer than 2 weeks. My family has been supportive and I truly thank my rheumatologist every day for giving me answers I've long waited for. I'm currently on Benlysta and other medications to manage my symptoms, and to help me be the mother and wife I was meant to be. I still have bad days, but with prayer and support, I turn what I can into a positive.