Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's a Lupus Story. Part I.

I'm aware of the fact that a lot of my readers don't know what Lupus is, what it entails, and how life-changing it is. Lupus is an illness that isn't advertised or given much attention to. Regardless, I feel that everyone is entitled to educate and be educated. In this segment of my blog, I'm going to focus on Lupus and my diagnosis - don't worry, I won't bombard you with medical terms.

I was diagnosed with SLE - Systematic Lupus Erythematosus in September of 2008. I was a senior in high school and it was my first week of classes when I noticed a toothache. My gums were swollen and brushing my teeth was a 'bloody' scene. I went to the dentist and took care of that shit without delay. No one wants stank teeth. Especially not when you have a smile like mine, haha. I also noticed a lot of physical pain - high fevers, headaches, and body aches. These headaches were severe. I'd be knocked out for the entire day. Medicine, sleep, massage. Nothing helped. But the pains were a good excuse to get my youngest sister to massage me. Alongside the headaches and fevers, I had no apetite. And knowing me this was definitely a sign that something was wrong because I love food and usually never say 'no' to food. However, I brushed it off and didn't mention anything to my parents. Though I didn't mention anything, my mother knew something was wrong and asked if I was depressed. I don't know? That definitely was not the case, so I just stayed away from my parents. Ah, 17 years old and the desire to be left alone. Classic.

I continued going to classes and noticed a lot of swelling on my body. Unusual swelling. I mean I've never been a stick, but I was never a fatass either. Day by day it was becoming harder for me to walk and even hold a pen while taking notes. I remember the first or second class of AP Psychology, I couldn't hold my pen. My writing looked like scribbles. Walking from class to class was becoming a journey. Luckily, Ruqayyah and I were taking the same classes and she would carry my books because I was weak in the shoulders and was unable to put weight on my arms.

During senior class picture, which took place during that first week, the entire class of '09 was seated outside of the school. I was on the ground, and oh my God, I don't know what I felt, but I felt that I would faint any second. I couldn't hold my body straight and kept swaying and bumping into the other girls sitting next to me posing for the pictures. I was waiting for the friggin' photographer to hurry the fuck up, but he was taking his sweet ass time. When the photoshoot was over, I called Ruqayyah over to help me get up. As we were walking up the stairs, I struggled and told her, "I didn't know how difficult it was to be overweight until now. I don't want to be overweight." My problem was far worse than being overweight. 

It wasn't until I noticed my right foot - it grew to be the size of a football somehow. I mean, how often do we analyze our feet? In gym class, we were assigned to run 8 laps, which I didn't want to do but also knew it was impossible to accomplish with this foot. I spoke to the gym teacher and she suggested I go to the nurse. Of course the day I needed the nurse, she wasn't in her office. I went back to the gym and the gym teacher told me to put an icepack over the swelling. I tried her method at home, but noticed my foot mysteriously getting larger. My ankles and the top part of my foot were swollen. I tried pressing into my foot realizing that maybe it was water weight. My mother noticed me dabbing ice on my foot and asked me what the heck I was doing and I explained and showed her my foot. And the next day we were in the emergency room.

If I didn't have a patient mother, I don't know where or how I would be. The wait in the emergency room was unbearable. It was Ramadan and my mother and I were fasting. I was getting hungry and impatient. I was so close to leaving the hospital because I had shit to do: homework. It sounds lame when I look back now. It was a relief when I was finally called and  after checking my vitals, the nurse knew something was wrong. My blood pressure was high, unbelievably high. I was seen by the ER doctor immediately. First, they checked my weight. Though I didn't look it (I hope) I weighed 215 pounds! The urine sample also showed something I had never heard of: large amount of proteins were leaking out through my urine, which indicated I had some sort of kidney disease. And because my kidneys were not functioning, my blood pressure was high.

When the doctors came with all this kidney and protein talk, my mother started crying. It was a dramatic scene. Seeing her cry, I couldn't help myself. I didn't know what was going to happen to me. Though I didn't know what was going on, I didn't think the situation was serious at the time. I thought I would stay at the hospital until my blood pressure was controlled and be able to return to school.

This didn't happen, at least not for another 5 months...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Renewed Life: Ramadan

I've been a total lazy ass. I sit online for hours and do absolutely nothing. I've become so consumed with Facebook. There's an addictive factor that is so hard to control. I could easily open up this site on another tab and be somewhat productive, but shit, my entire focus is in Facebook. In reality, I am a pretty busy person - to make plans with me, I'd have to check my schedule. You know how it is. Aside from all this junk, I haven't been inspired or motivated to write. You might be wondering what inspired me to write tonight. I am celebrating my two years with Lupus. This disease has given me such new life to celebrate.

Everyone goes through shit. We all endure different levels of pain in different stages of our life. If we didn't, life would definitely be easier to live, but in all optimism, it's good that we suffer. Suffering makes humans human.

Today is the first day of Ramadan. A month devoted to fasting, I'm hoping to make the best of it. Not just in the matters of losing some pounds perhaps, but finding inner peace, patience, and purity. When I was diagnosed with Lupus, also during the time of Ramadan, everyone was fasting and praying. I can't even describe the abundance of people that came to pray by my side. It was such a holy time that I spent in the ICU room. But I didn't realize then and maybe that's why I was in so much distress during my stay. I lost most of my faith in Allah because Lupus was not what I wanted. However, I'm a changed human being, as dramatic as that sounds. I realize the strength of prayers and the strength of Allah. The past two years, with all the ups and downs, have been my favorite two years of life so far.

I know I am not the most religious person ever, but when I find faith or at least an excuse to become spiritual, I feel good inside. Hopefully some day, religion will not be a timely excuse. So, my Muslim and non-Muslim brothers and sisters, rejoice in this month of renewal.