Thursday, May 12, 2016
This is my friend Natalie. Natalie has been through more shit in her life than you'd ever know just by looking at her. When I first met her, we were in our early 20s, listening to music in a bar. This was before I lived in Memphis. I didn't realize at the time she would become one of my best friends. I didn't even know that I'd soon be living in Memphis. I do remember her being strikingly beautiful, with the most gorgeous locks of brunette hair. The next time I saw Natalie she was wearing a wig, hiding a trach scar, and sitting in a wheelchair. What could have possibly happened to her in 3 months? She was so young. So healthy. So vibrant. So full of life. And here she is sitting in a wheelchair.
LUPUS happened to Natalie. LUPUS tried to kill Natalie. After trying to shut down most of her major organs, Natalie looked LUPUS in the eye and said, "Nope. Not gonna happen." I had heard of LUPUS before I met her, but didn't really understand it. It wasn't until we started becoming good friends that I took the time to look it up and find out what this thing living inside my friend was. If you know Natalie or anyone else with LUPUS, you should learn more about it here. The best way I can describe it to people who don't know, is this...
Natalie's immune system is an overachiever.
When I get sick, my body sees an infection as a foreign invader and my antibodies attack it and kill it. End of story. When Natalie gets sick, her body sees everything in its wake as a foreign invader. Her kidneys, her liver, her heart, her lungs, her skin... Natalie has the Terminator living inside of her. And it wants everything to die. So in order for her to keep the Terminator happy, she has to take a lot of meds. One of these medications was an antimalarial drug. And it was great in the fight against the Terminator. But it has side effects. One of them being damage to the retina. So when Natalie looks at things, she has a bull's-eye pattern of blindness. Meaning your face will be blurry when she sees you until she is able to get you in the perfect spot of her bull's eye to where you aren't blurry anymore. So when you see her and wave to her and she doesn't wave back, know that Natalie isn't being a bitch. She literally can't see you.
Natalie has to take a lot of steroids. This has caused her to have osteonecrosis. Which means the blood flow to her bones is decreased, causing her bones to die. Natalie has had both of her hips replaced and her ankle fused due to osteonecrosis.
Natalie has many scars. Natalie has had many surgeries. Natalie has spent a lot of time in the hospital and in doctor's offices. Natalie has a lot of pain and discomfort. Natalie walks with a limp. Natalie gets rashes on her face. Natalie has to walk with a cane. Natalie has to take a lot of medicine. Natalie has had to give up driving. Natalie has had to quit working jobs she loves because she can't see as well or move as fast.
What Natalie DOESN'T have is a bad attitude about having LUPUS. She has the highest threshold of pain I've ever seen a human being have. Natalie is a real live superhero. Instead of curling up in a ball and crying and saying, "why me", Natalie wakes up every day just happy to be alive. You think Natalie can't do something? Think again. Natalie can and will do whatever Natalie wants to do. Natalie will not let LUPUS control her life. Natalie doesn't like talking about LUPUS all the time. She lives and breathes LUPUS every day. So it's my hope that you understand what Natalie has gone through and continues to go through so that when you see her, you don't have to ask her about it. You will know. Natalie doesn't want you to feel sorry for her. She wants to talk about music, her dog Wrigley, her amazing boyfriend Logan, her beautiful sisters and niece, her love of travel, her thriving garden, and her love of life.
Natalie is not alone. There are more than 5 million people with LUPUS. There is no cure for LUPUS. Natalie would love for there to be a cure for LUPUS. You can donate to help find a cure for LUPUS here. May is LUPUS awareness month. So I wanted to tell the story of my amazing, courageous, beautiful, friend Natalie. Please help spread awareness so we can find a cure for Natalie.