Pursuing Medicine with Lupus

It was during the summer of 2016 when I first started feeling joint pain; other odd symptoms followed: hair thinning, light brown scab...

It was during the summer of 2016 when I first started feeling joint pain; other odd symptoms followed: hair thinning, light brown scabs on my fingertips, and swelling in my feet. I did not think much of these symptoms until the joint pain started to affect my walking and I decided to go see my pediatrician in December. A month later, right before the start of my second semester of freshman year, I was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease for which there is no known cause or cure.

            I have always wanted to be a doctor since I was a child. The job appealed to me because it was a great way to use my compassion to actively help others. From a young age, I had also been intrigued by the body and its mystifying ways; its abilities to heal itself, to fight foreign invaders, to create and carry life, and to do all of this around the clock drew me into a love for anatomy.

Getting diagnosed with an illness gave me a new perspective on being a doctor. Being a doctor was not about just trying to heal the patient, but about making sure the patient was comfortable with the whole healing process (from diagnosis to suitable medication or surgery). Seeing how hard my doctors tried for me motivates me to do the same for someone else; I remember one incident in which I was hospitalized and multiple doctors kept coming in and asking me about my condition. They each examined me, asked me different questions about my daily life and medications. When I complained about taking plaquenil because it was blurring my vision, my rheumatologist suggests I switch the original plaquenil, which I am on now. I am also motivated by my illness to be a better doctor-- along with joint pain, lupus tends to cause fatigue and flare-ups (a sudden increase in the disease’s activity), which makes the busy life as an undergraduate more difficult. I do not allow my symptoms to stop from my pursuing my dreams and volunteering or seeking out clinical experiences. Another thing I learned was the importance of patience in the healthcare field. Initially, I refused to take my medications (simply because I did not like taking medications) and my doctors had to explain to me countless of times why lupus is an illness that should be taken seriously; not taking my medication only would mean frequent flare-ups and physical pain.

            My symptoms got so bad at one point that I questioned pursuing a career with so much mental and physical demands; I felt helpless to a force I could not control. Eventually, I realized that, like any other problem, I was going to have to overcome my worries and fears and persevere; once when I was shadowing a general surgeon, I had the opportunity of following around a first year surgical resident. I told him my concerns about pursuing a demanding career with an illness and he assured me that there are doctors with lupus so I can do it too. The motivation that my lupus would not stop me from achieving my goal in pursuing medicine has fueled my interest even more in the field.

- DaughterofZion

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