Lupus Story

“Meet my ‘SuperwoMOM’”

When my mom was diagnosed with Lupus in 2000, she never obliged us to take care of her or accompany on her checkups and activities because we were so young then. I never really understood what she was going through until I saw her enduring her suffering just to attend to my needs and accomplish all the paperwork for my upcoming surgery back then.
My mom, Madeliene Lopez Yarza or Madge is selfless. She never buys anything for herself unless it’s on a bargain. Whenever she has extra money, she would always prioritize our needs, and set aside her own. I would often tell her to take care of herself first. There were even times that I would refuse her help and demand that she attend to her needs first. But she still won’t and that would really break my heart.
I’m just amazed at how my mom, a sick person, can manage to take good care of another sick person, whether it’s me or anyone in our family. Even my close friends and relatives also felt her tender love and care. She is often in deep pain but she knows how to ease away our own pain. My mom is truly my inspiration. Here, I share her heart’s desire to hopefully inspire others.
“Lupus is an autoimmune disease where the body’s natural defense or immune system attacks its own tissues instead of foreign substances like bacteria and viruses. It’s a chronic disease that causes inflammation — pain and swelling. It can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, lungs, nervous system and other organs of the body. Most patients feel fatigue and have rashes, arthritis –painful and swollen joints and episodes of both low and high grade fever. Lupus is the common name for systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE. There is no cure for SLE and it can be fatal.
I’ve been suffering from lupus for almost 14 years now, with complications from long-term use of steroids. I was diagnosed in late 2000, months after I gave birth to our youngest son. I had terrible joint pains in my hands, mouth soars, stomach pain, episodes of low grade fever, hair loss and very low blood count.
At first, I tried to endure all the pain, as I thought it was just arthritis and I was still too young for it. But later, I was forced to see a doctor when my hair started to fall. I could not eat because of oral ulcers and severe stomach pains that resulted to weight loss. Steroids were injected on my scalp to treat my hair loss but they were not effective. My stomach pains were unbearable so I sought a doctor who has enormous knowledge in autoimmune diseases. He had me undergo a series of laboratory tests. When the results came out, I was referred to a hematologist because I seem to have aplastic anemia. Thank God, it was not it. I then I went to a a rheumatologist, Dr. Esther Penserga who is like a mother to me. I had another series of laboratory tests and the result was positive; I have lupus.
It was so depressing. I don’t know anything about this disease. I kept asking myself, “Will I die soon? Paano ang mga anak ko?” I researched about it and it made me even more scared. But when Dra. Penserga encouraged me to join the Lupus Club at the Philippine General Hospital, I was able to understand and accept my disease. I became more at ease when I met people who are in the same situation. Learning about their experiences inspired me so much and gave me the strength and hope to continue moving on with my life. I was motivated to attend the regular monthly meetings to gain more knowledge about SLE. I learned how to live with it while taking care of myself.
Family members and caregivers are encouraged to join the meetings too, for them to understand what a lupus patient is going through and to know how they could give support. During those times, I would attend the meetings all by myself and I couldn’t help but feel envious of the other members who had someone with them. Dra. Penserga comforted me by saying, “Madge, if your environment can’t understand your disease, then get up and help yourself. Be strong and you can do it!”
Pain comes in all forms. How we manage our pain is up to us. The best way is to just push it through. I learned how to find strength and hope in all of my pain. I then realized that God has given me this trial for a reason. It was for me to understand and know how it feels to be sick. I have always dreamt of becoming a doctor when I was young, but we could not afford it. Maybe this is God’s way of granting my wish, that I am able to help the sick people in my own little way, despite my disabilities.
Having a chronic disease has never been a hindrance in serving God’s purpose for me. Being sick and taking care of my sick daughter is a blessing from Him. My physical, emotional and spiritual strength comes from Him.
I am not a superwoman but I believe that this inner strength may be one of God’s reasons why I am here – to love and take good care of His precious gifts – my children, Kcat, Talitha and Maro.
And if times comes that I grow old and weak, I wish that I will be in a home for the elderly, sharing my stories and making them smile.”
My mom is not a superwoman with super powers. But for me, she is a supermom with a powerful heart. If you have lupus like my mom, counseling and support groups such as the Lupus Foundation of the Philippines and the UP-PGH Lupus Club can help you go through the emotional issues involving this illness.

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