I almost wish I had cancer instead of Lupus.
It’s one of the many reasons my family is going to Washington DC in June. Because unlike Angelina Jolie I can’t make a brave decision (which I applaud wholeheartedly) and then simply have only scars and memories left to show my children.
I know it’s a terrible thing to say…to wish I had a disease that kills the people I love and that kills so many. But it also can be defeated. It can be prevented. It has billions in research and deserves billions more. And yes, there is a sick part of me that wishes I had to fight cancer and were given that fighting chance so I could kick its ass and then move on with my life, or lose my battle with dignity.
Instead I have a chronic illness. Like cancer it has no cure. Unlike cancer, it can not be defeated…it can only be ‘controlled.’
1.5 million Americans suffers as I do…and those are just the ones who are diagnosed. Because Lupus affects a majority of women of color there is tremendous fear that many go undiagnosed and go without medication to help them function.
Without the pills and shots I take daily, and the infusions I get bi-weekly, there is no way I could function. So in a way, you can add ‘double mastectomy’ to the list of things on my Angelina Jolie jealousy list. What I wouldn’t give to go through several surgeries to be rid of this fear and pain and ache and disorder. I’m jealous I had no choice in losing my colon, gall bladder, ovaries, uterus, cervix, or in the stroke I had thanks to Lupus. I’m jealous I can’t just have a surgery and a few rounds of chemo and radiation instead of my bi-weekly rounds and the constant fear of another organ in danger just around the corner.
I know it’s not fair to compare diseases. Or to play the ‘who has it worse’ game. I know, compared to so many, I would lose hands down. But I can’t help wishing I could knock the crap out of the ‘chronic’ part of auto-immune disorders and fight a brave fight and then move ON. Just let me win or lose already. Just let there be a finish line.
Lawmakers need to know Lupus isn’t like many of the illnesses people lobby for when they come to the Hill. Sure, we need research money like any other. However, what I want Congress and the Administration to know is our fight never ends. The children always are in fear of when Mommy will go back to the hospital. The story Angelina Jolie told of her partner, Brad Pitt, being by her side and there even being jokes…believe me, after hospital stay #50000000 you are lucky if your hand is held between arrangements being made on who will take the kids to school and what can be made for dinner between doses of hard-core drugs from the nurse.
Marriages have crumbled under the strain of Lupus. Children require therapy because they have to learn to incorporate ‘Mom is always sick’ into their everyday lives. So much so that I hesitate to turn on the news tomorrow morning, knowing Ms. Jolie will be on every station here in Los Angeles and it will inevitably lead to my kids asking ‘can’t they just cut the Lupus out of you, Mom?’
And I will have to hide in the shower, again, to cry. And I will explain, again, that no… no… they can’t just get rid of Mom’s Lupus but they can keep it under control and no, no, it can’t just be cut out, but maybe someday they will come up with a drug or a vaccine or even a cure.
If we are lucky, they will come up with a cure for Lupus and cancer, then maybe no more children will have to ask their Mommies about scars and partners will always laugh while we patients can finally rest, knowing the fight is over.
I think that is the sort of Hollywood happy ending we can all get behind.
Friday is Put on Purple for Lupus Day. Do me a favor and wear purple. And thank you to everyone who donated to help get us to DC. I’m happy to report we’ve purchased our plane tickets. We will do all we can to represent you proudly.