Hello, everyone! My name is Erin, I was diagnosed with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis in June of this year. Here's my story (Sorry, it's long):

A lot of my problems started out when I was really young. My mother believes it started after I got REALLY sick one winter around the time I was eight, and after that I just never seemed to get better. A majority of the time, I was sick. I started noticing problems with myself around the age of ten, when I started having breathing problems. I couldn't ever take really deep breaths, it would cause me a lot of pain. When we went to the doctor, he told me it was because I would sleep in place too long and the mucus in my lungs would settle, so it would hurt to break it up. I figured then that he was probably right, and just tried not to take deep breaths.

When I was thirteen, I started gaining a significant amount of weight. I went from 120lbs to nearly 200 in less than a year. My mother and I figured it was hormones, because I was hitting puberty, and when we went to the doctor, we didn't really receive any answers. My weight has always been a struggle for me since. When I was around fifteen, the fatigue started to set in. I could sleep from eight at night to seven the next morning and still fall asleep in class. So, again we went to the doctor, thinking I probably had Mono. That's when we found my old medical files and I was diagnosed with PCOS. It has been the doctor's fall-back ever since. When I started having the severe chest pains again, the doctor told me I had what they called costochondritis, the inflammation of the cartilage in my ribs.

So, as things progressed, I started to assume a lot of my problems were because I had been heavy most of my life. When I was 20, I started having problems with my knees, they would just ache and swell to the point where I could no longer take stairs (that was one of the most humiliating times of my life). Another heavy friend of mine who was my age was also having some knee problems, so I assumed again that it was because I was fat. Then my feet started causing me problems, and the pain would shoot through my foot and make it difficult to walk. I started working at Wal Mart as a stocker at 21, and figured that the physical part of the job would help. I lost nearly 100lbs, but my knee pain and foot pain would not let up. Again, I went to the doctor. They told me I had a vitamin D deficiency, and put me on a very high dose of D to see if it would help. It helped my feet a little. I also started having really bad dizzy spells, then. My vision would black out from time to time, freak me and my co-workers out, but I didn't think too much more about it.

Around September 2009, I started noticing problems with my elbows and hands. They would ache, swell, and I could barely move them some days. It would usually get a little better a few hours after waking up, but it was starting to affect my art, which for me was the turning point. My hands are precious to me, since I'm trying to get work as an animator, so them not working was not an option. I went to see another doctor, and after finding out that my dizzy spells were related to the fact that I had POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome), and my blood pressure would plummit when I stood up, but otherwise he shrugged about my other problems. When winter hit, I started noticing that unlike everyone else, when my hands were cold, they would turn white. A friend of mine told me about Raynaud's phenomenon, so I looked it up. This was my first run-in with Lupus. I didn't see a doctor then, because I didn't want another dead-end.

It wasn't until Easter of this year that I even considered Lupus as perhaps being a part of my problems. My uncle's wife had recently lost her mother to complications of Lupus, and she said my symptoms were eerily similar to her mother's. After a black-out on the road, I finally decided to see a doctor back in my hometown. I had an ANA, Rheumatoid Factor, and many other tests done that day, and my ANA titre came back positive. So, I got my appointment with my Rheumy, and sure enough, on June 10, I was diagnosed.

It has since been a major struggle, from getting used to my medications, to getting medical leave from work, to just trying to adjust to a much slower life-style. I am excited to get to meet more people with this disease, and possibly make a few friends along the way!

Erin