Chronic Illness warrior, Cherezade Paul, suffers from Lupus & Sjogren’s Syndrome. Cherezade has added her face and story to Faces & Stories of Chronic Illness. I’m so grateful that she has shared this, as each story told raises awareness and helps fellow sufferers.
You can connect with Cherezade by following her on Instagram.
My name is Cherezade Paul and I am a 20-year-old female from South Africa, and this is my story. I am not going into detail about my medication.
My journey began, I would say, when I was 6-7 years old. I began getting severe Flu that would generally land me up in hospital due to dehydration and having Bronchitis. At this time, I was generally very tired, as a child would be after a long day at school, and nothing seemed strange about this either. I would often stay out of school when the Flu started, to avoid going to hospital and rather treated it at home. One thing I realized as a young adult, was that my mother used to say I was a very quiet and withdrawn child. I generally did not like lots of noise, and preferred playing with my cousins and friends in my neighbourhood. Nevertheless, it did not stop me from being a bright student. This continued until I was 10-11 years old and I began getting Migraines and Headaches along with Bronchitis. During this time, I also began experiencing dry skin which would result in open sores and peeling. My mother thought I had eczema, which she also experienced. At 14 my migraines got worse, and my throat infections and bronchitis became more frequent. I went to see my GP to find out about my headaches and he referred me to a gastroenterologist, as it might be something to do with that area.
Fast forward to my diagnosis. The doctor performed blood tests for Sjogren’s Syndrome which came back positive. I am not sure how the test is conducted but I know this is what he found. He referred me to a Rheumatologist, and she seemed extremely concerned by the look of me. She explained that I looked very bad and she thought I might have something else going on. She then tested me for Lupus, and I was diagnosed at the age of 15!!
Naturally, my whole world fell apart. I was convinced that I would not make it, but the Rheumatologist never once gave me an opportunity to give up. She kept me on track and fighting back. I could not complain about any medication unless it made me unwell, only then would she listen, but I could not do anything else. I was tired. I was drained. I became depressed at the age of 16 and this led to me becoming a party animal (yes, I know do not worry, way too young). I wanted to be as normal as possible but when the pain hit, it hit bad. I would be bed ridden for an entire weekend but still pushed, pushed through, and eventually completed my schooling on time. I lost friends and I gained friends, I was spoken about, but I was just too focused on myself to care about people gossiping about how much weight I had put on. I constantly push myself to achieve things I tell myself I cannot. With pain comes strength … something that never leaves my mind. I was stuck on it and I do not even remember where I saw it, but from there I knew there was nothing at all I could not achieve! I might not be where I thought I would be, but with time I would achieve even more.
For anyone newly diagnosed and not sure how to deal with this, just know this chronic illness will push you to limits which you didn’t know you had and force you to be strong when you can’t. You cannot give up at any time, and it is okay not to be okay. Live life to your fullest capability, warrior. Do not let life bring your down. Embrace your good days, and rest on the bad ones.