Prior to my diagnosis, I had limited knowledge about Lupus; therefore, I was unaware of my symptoms and the impending battle that would be lifelong. Throughout my journey, I’ve learned that raising awareness is key to fighting chronic diseases. By sharing our stories, we provide a level of hope — the likelihood that if people living with Lupus are heard, others will no longer be blind to the “invisible” and mysterious disease; they would be aware of the physical and mental struggles of Lupus and have empathy and advocate for others alike.
Systematic Lupus Erythematous is an unpredictable and misunderstood chronic inflammatory disease, which has no known cure. I was diagnosed with Lupus in November 2014, in which I encountered frequent hospital admissions and short-term disability leave from work, and an additional diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis.
I suffered from active Lupus flares in my lungs, kidneys (Lupus Nephritis), and heart (pericarditis). Pericarditis caused a sharp, stabbing pain deep within my chest. The pain traveled throughout my back, shoulders, and neck. Lupus also caused chronic fatigue, hair shedding, photosensitivity to the sun, occasional dysfunction with thinking and memory, and swelling within my joints, which made mobility difficult. In early 2017, I was finally back to normal.
However, in late November 2021, after 5 years of remission, I began to experience extreme fatigue, body aches, inflammation in my ankles and feet, and struggled to walk and stand. Such symptoms were signs that my kidneys were declining again. Following a 7-day hospital admission in December 2021, I’m now undergoing IV infusion therapy sessions as an alternative to chemotherapy along with additional medications. Treatment/medications are going well, yet the side effects are unpleasant. Prednisone has altered my appearance to the point where I don’t look like myself, and most days, I don’t feel like myself.
Nevertheless, I know this is temporary, and I’m hopeful for the near future. I’ve been overwhelmingly blessed with an amazing group of people, who are the true definition of humanity. Words can never express my gratitude for my family, friends, peers, professors, and medical staff (the true heroes). Currently, my health situation may not be ideal, but I know soon, all will be even better than before.
Thank you all for your continuous support for the “Walk to End Lupus,” and a special thank you for all the kind calls/texts, gifts/flowers sent to my home, and offers to “give me a kidney” — you all have been far too kind!
-Annessia J. Bullard
Walk to End Lupus Atlanta, 2022