Looking back, the one thing I wish I would have done was starting this blog when I was first diagnosed with SLE. Back in May 2007, I was clueless to all the strange things that were happening with my body. Through the last six years, it started to make sense. Don't get me wrong, there are still a lot of weird things going on with my body that I'm still trying to figure out but at least I know what disease I'm dealing with.

Since my blog is still fairly new, maybe I can start from the beginning and give an insight to some of the things I experienced as a "newbie" to Lupus.

Two years before my diagnosis, I was out learning how to play tennis with some friends. I started feeling some pain in my elbow. It was swollen and I was having a hard time bending it. My friend that was with me, who was a nurse, suggested it could have been tendinitis. I never knew the importance of looking into it and thought it would go away on its own. It did a week or so later.

Fast forward to two years later.  One weekend, my boyfriend (now husband) came over to spend the weekend with me. Out of nowhere, I had hives, which looked like big welts all over my face and body. I had no idea where it came from and made a doctors appointment with a dermatologist. Outcome: he had given me some medication and I was told to come back after two weeks if my hives didn't go away. The plan was to then take some blood tests. I never made it two weeks later.....

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was at work one day and the next evening I was at home with what I thought was food poisoning. I was dating my husband but lived by myself in my condo. If you ever had food poisoning before, you would know how awful it is to experience. I was on the floor in the bathroom and could barely move because it had made me so weak. I spent that night on the bathroom floor. It wasn't until the next day that I was able to move and make a phone call to my mother to tell her what happened. She came over right away. I was so dehydrated that my mother and my father took me to the ER to get checked out. They gave me some fluids and sent me on my way. I still wasn't feeling 100% but I kept living my life. A few days later, I had gone to my neighbor's house to have some dinner. When we were finished and I was getting ready to leave, my legs suddenly felt like blocks of cement. They were so heavy and difficult to lift. I could barely walk. When I finally made it home, I looked in the mirror and my upper lip had blown up like a balloon. I immediately took some Benedryl thinking it was some sort of allergy, even though I didn't eat anything out of the ordinary. All my neighbor and I had for dinner was spaghetti.

The following day, I called my primary care doctor and made an appointment. Talking to my sister that night and telling her what had happened, she suggested getting ANA testing. It is an antinuclear antibody test and is often used as one of the tests for SLE or other autoimmune disorders. My sister works in the health field as a nurse anesthetist so she was knowledgeable with some things. She also talked about Lupus and suggested I look into it. At that time I had never heard of such a disease but when I started doing some research online about it, I realized I was experiencing some of the symptoms. My primary care doctor at the time ordered it for me and also took some throat cultures as well. He called me soon after and told me that it looked like I had a staph infection in my throat and immediately had me fill a prescription for Bactrim. We were still waiting for the results of the ANA test. A couple of days later while I was on Bactrim, I started to get some chest pain and shortness of breath. I was still weak from the day of the food poisoning incident but felt weaker. By this point, I was bedridden and couldn't even walk a few feet to use the restroom. I could barely even sleep on my back or turn to sleep on my side. The pain was so intense around my lungs. For days I had to sleep propped up...and I could barely even sleep. Since my doctor didn't say anything to me, I didn't think anything was too horrible. (You see, I was too worried about being a pest to my doctor that I didn't bother to bother him.) When I got too weak (and 2 weeks later), my mother, with a lot of prodding, made me go the the ER again. I was stubborn and didn't want to go far so we had gone to a smaller hospital close to my condo. Bad idea. They did a chest x-ray and sent me home with strong pain medication, all the while not really telling me what was causing all my pain.

Another few days passed and the pain medication not working, I called my primary care doctor and told him about the pain I was going through. In his words he told me that he didn't know what to do with me. "Maybe I can go to the ER and maybe they can figure out what was going on." My boyfriend (now husband) told me that if my parents didn't take me to a better hospital, he was going to drag my butt there. So I listened and my parents drove me to the hospital that my sister works at. Thank goodness I listened. Five days in the hospital and I was finally diagnosed!!! Turned out I had pleurisy and pericarditis AND I found out I was allergic to Sulfa, which is something that Bactrim contained. I was given 60mg of Prednisone and Plaquenil.

I was lucky because I worked for a great company that was very concerned about my health issues. I ended up being off of work for 3 months to recover. Needless to say, I switched my primary care physician and continued with the one that I met during my stay in the hospital. He is such a blessing!

I still wonder to this day what would have happened if my dermatologist would have taken that blood test. Would I have known sooner about my diagnosis? I'll probably never get the answer to that question but it will always be in the back of my mind. While I was in the hospital, my Rheumatologist told me that normally Lupus can be difficult to diagnose but because I had pleurisy, he knew Lupus was the culprit. I'm just happy I received a diagnosis.


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