I believe that every obstacle we face in life is there for a purpose and meant to strengthen us for the journey ahead. When I was just eight years old, I was faced with one of the biggest obstacles in my life which has stayed with me ever since and probably will for the rest of my life. My obstacle is a disease called lupus.
It all started 2 weeks after my 8th birthday. It was normal Saturday morning as me and the rest of my family were sitting on my parent’s bed just talking and laughing when my older sister noticed that my toes were alarmingly purple. My parents examined my feet and decided to call a doctor about it. After a series of tests my doctor sent us to a rheumatologist specialist at Children’s memorial hospital where we found out that I had shown about 7 of the 12 symptoms of a serious autoimmune disease called lupus.
Lupus is a disease where your immune system is tricked into attacking your body’s normal cells and tissues, which can be very dangerous to the body. Luckily I had a pretty mild case of the disease called SLE, which was good, but my case was still very serious. Immediately the doctors put me on a high dosage of a very strong steroid along with many other medicines to suppress my immune system to keep it from doing more damage. The high dosage of steroids completely transformed my body within days. Everything happened so fast, but I guess that’s how it is with these types of things, you never expect it to happen to you and when it does, it happens so fast that you can’t grasp on to the situation and it changes everything in your life within a second. It was hard for me to really understand what was going on at the time, but I soon found out that my life would be very different from then on.
First of all, I had to stay out of the sun as much as possible, because it would trigger my disease and possibly cause a flare up, making my condition go from mild to worse. So I couldn’t play outside with the other kids at recess or go play basketball with the neighborhood gang after school. I couldn’t engage in the water fights we had in the summer or any other fun stuff the kids did during the day. Of course it’s not like I couldn’t walk outside, or play outside in the evening, I just couldn’t play outside for long periods of time during the day when the sun was at it’s peak.
Not to mention, I also had to start dieting at the age of eight! I had to stay away from as much as possible foods with high doses of sodium and sugar because those were like poison to my body. I mean at eight, the only food a kid would eat is candy and ice cream! I mean it’s not like I was a very picky eater and I didn’t mind eating my fruits and vegetables but I wasn’t ready to give up my salty hotdogs and macaroni & cheese either. But as I learned to cope with those minor difficulties I soon realized my most hardest obstacles were yet to come: explaining to my family, friends, teachers and school mates what was happening to me, and deal with their reactions.
Of course, there was no way of covering it up because my physical appearance gave it away by a landslide. I had transformed from a normal very skinny girl to an enormous fat kid overnight (from the steroids)! I couldn’t believe what was happening to me and neither could the kids at school. You could barely even recognize my face and to try and explain to 2nd graders what I have just explained to you would be useless. So I decided to just tell them that I was taking medicine that made me fat. But of course most of the kids couldn’t really understand it. One girl even said, “Why don’t you stay home if you’re sick, we don’t want to get sick too!” I also faced some teasing from a few kids here and there, but even a few words hurt because I knew I was fat and there was nothing I could do about it and it just killed me. I didn’t have many friends, because I was very shy and very fat, but I had to stay strong and have faith in God that he would take care of me during this difficult time in my life. And he did, he gave me some really great friends whom I will never forget because even though they may not have really realized it then, they helped me in ways I can’t even explain. As the famous Greek play writer Euripides once said, “ One loyal friend is worth 10,000 relatives.”
Fortunately as I grew older, I got better and better and just recently my doctor decided to completely take me off my steroids. Now I lead a pretty normal life, but I still have a long way to go. There is no real cure for my disease yet, so I will probably live with it for the rest of my life but I’ve learned to deal with it and just take life as it comes. I’m so grateful for all God has done in my life and I’ve learned so much from my experiences. I’ve learned to comfort those who are lonely, see the real inner beauty in people, and be a friend to those who need it most. I saw my obstacle as a chance to strengthen myself, and it did. This I believe, that every obstacle we face in life now is meant to not to harm us but to only help us and make us better people so that we can learn to grow and be ready for whatever life has to offer us.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.