When your immune system becomes hyperactive and starts attacking normal, healthy tissues, life changes drastically. May is Lupus Awareness Month, and this incurable autoimmune disease affects approximately 1.5 million Americans, 90 percent of which are women.
With symptoms like fatigue, chest pain when breathing, hair loss, mouth sores, sensitivity to light, joint pain, skin rashes, and swollen lymph nodes, daily tasks can seem insurmountable. Add to that taking care of a toddler, getting homework done, grocery shopping, little league games, and all of the other things that come with being a mom, and you’ve got a recipe for one overwhelmed parent.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Jenny Studenroth, a five-year lupus veteran and mom to a 1-and-a-half-year-old, about living life with this disease and what she wants other moms to know.
Jenny struggles with fatigue and joint pain on a daily basis — two symptoms that she’s constantly fighting to overcome and work through. When having a flare-up, skin rashes make a show and the pain goes from difficult to debilitating.
When I asked her how she combats these symptoms, she said:
“I take Plaquenil daily to keep the flare-ups at bay, but it doesn’t get rid of everything. Yoga and meditation really help me. Now that my time is so eclipsed by my daughter’s needs, it’s harder to get frequent classes in. But I’ll do simple poses and stretches when I can. Having a supportive partner is also key. My husband doesn’t ask questions — if I tell him I’m in pain and need a break, he takes over.”
Living with daily discomfort and fatigue can take a toll not only physically, but also emotionally and mentally. Jenny’s daughter is the driving force that keeps her pushing through the pain and exhaustion. Having that goal and focus can truly give you strength when you need it most.
“She is the bottom line, and I need her to know that I am fighting for her,” she said. “I try to think of my lupus as a side bar. It doesn’t define me. It does make it difficult for me to do normal things, but I am always pushing around that.”
There are many challenging feelings that stem from coping with a chronic illness, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Molly’s Fund, a foundation that supports the mission of educating the public about lupus states, “The power comes in gaining the understanding of where those feelings are stemming from, so that you are better able to develop techniques to cope with them.”
These coping mechanisms oftentimes mean the difference between despair and leading a positive, productive life.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to take it when people offer,” Jenny advises. “Sometimes, the small breaks these opportunities allow are just what you need to rest up and get back to being the mommy you want to be!”
When depression, self-doubt, and fear of failure rear their ugly heads, remember to take it one day at a time. And if you or someone you know is struggling with lupus or another chronic disease, it’s always important to make room for grace.
“There will be good days and bad — don’t define yourself by the bad ones. Just make the most of the good ones!”
Get to know lupus this month and join the nationwide effort to raise awareness and funds for education as well as research programs at Lupus Foundation of America. Together we can be devoted to solving the mystery of one of the world’s cruelest, most unpredictable diseases while giving support to those who suffer from its brutal impact!