Dear Lupus, I Want Me Back

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Lauren Lee-Johnson My name is Lauren Johnson, and I have systemic lupus erythematosus. It's an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks healthy tissue. It can cause damage to many parts of body such as joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels and the brain. Lupus is one of the most complicated and cruelest autoimmune diseases. Simply put: It's difficult to diagnose, hard to live with and challenging to treat. If I could write a letter to lupus, I would say "I want me back, I've had enough." As a junior at Kent State University, I felt like I was on top of the world. I went to a great school, I was doing exactly what I love (journalism), and then on September 11, 2001, I began to get unexplained illnesses one after another. Eventually, I landed in a hospital bed with an IV pumping a cocktail of drugs meant to cure "a series of infections" ravaging my body. When I finally felt reasonable enough to go to class, I couldn't remember things. My essays, as one professor told me, suddenly "read like ramblings." I wasn't me. That semester, I ended up taking incompletes in all of my classes. My doctors and professors declared I was overwhelmed with catching up in my classes and the anxiety of it all consumed me. Little did I know that it would be a decade later before I would officially find out it was really systemic lupus erythematosus. My diagnosis came as I was entering what I considered the magical part of my life. I had married, had a beautiful daughter and was working my dream job and finally felt like I was walking in my purpose. Abnormal levels of waste can build up in the blood, and edema is often the first sign of lupus nephritis. I began to have horrific migraines, excruciating nerve pain down my left arm, and bruises and rashes started to appear more and more often. Initially, I thought
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