My Battle With Lupus- Part 2: The Happy Doctor with the Diagnosis / by Shanelle Gabriel

It was my first time seeing my PCP, Dr Mahoney since I'd just changed insurance companies. He tried to do all the preliminaries and I interrupted him. "Look at this!" He examines my scalp, then pulls away confused. He looks again, asks a few questions that I said no to, and then proceeds to write notes with a baffled look on his face. I think to myself "Oh no! I have one of those diseases that, like, 3% of the world population have!" I offer suggestions to help his loss for ideas on what my hair loss could be. 

"Could it be stress?" 

"It wouldn't look like that."

 "Um, I had a relaxer a month ago. I know it didn't burn, but maybe…" 

"No, you'd have at least a scab."

He's rubbing his forehead staring into his notes. I give up suggesting things and he decides to run some blood tests. On my way out, I mention that I had a few other complaints but we could get to it after we figure out what's wrong with my scalp. I'm not one to get people worked up, so I told my mom the doctor said I'll be fine. When my answer sufficed for her, I stopped thinking about it.

I return a week after and Dr. Mahoney is ecstatic. He immediately sits down and says, "Shanelle, I think I've got it. Do you know what Lupus is?" He's like a kid who discovers a tub of water balloons on a hot summer day. I say no, then correct myself. "Yes. Mercades from America's Next Top Model has it." He runs off a checklist of symptoms. Low and behold, my list of issues above were ALL listed on the 11 symptoms of a Lupus patient. The blood work supported this theory, but I needed a rheumatologist to officially diagnose me. In walks Dr Dvorkina, a blond-haired, bright eyed, sweet Russian lady with a heavy accent. Dr Mahoney introduces us, and Dr D goes straight to work flipping lab results, touching joints, squeezing my fingers, and asking questions. She then looks on my face. "Look at the Butterfly." I'm confused because the last time I was on South Beach, I KNOW at the last minute I said no to that tattoo. "It's just a dark area on and by the bridge of your nose. It's said to resemble a butterfly. Dear… Yes, you have Lupus." She schedules another appointment, tells me to get off birth control (darn, back to having cramps again), and speaks about medications. I'm relieved. "Whew, it's a disease they have medicine for. I'll be fine." I go to work. Yes, I get diagnosed with a chronic illness and I decide to go to work. SMH...

I get to work, which was a record store called Beat Street in downtown Brooklyn. I tell my co-worker of my doctor visit and results. Her hands flutter to her mouth. "Shanelle, my aunt died from Lupus." Um, okay. Not the best response for someone newly diagnosed. I hadn't even had time to google it. She seemed concerned for me but I figured her aunt was older which made it harder like adults with chicken pox. I head home and my internet was acting up (darn dial-up), so I went into my handy dandy Encyclopedia Brittanica from, oh, 1989. I look for the section on Lupus. Very accurate information on the symptoms, however the prognosis written there said "Most cases of Lupus result in death." I close the book, and still refuse to face my mortality. I told my family and they didn't believe it. Me having Lupus would make me the first person in our ENTIRE immediate family to have anything other than asthma and skin allergies. They told me to go for a second opinion. My mom just felt like I needed to rest because I'm always so busy. I get the second opinion from a Rheumatologist in Park Slope and she confirms it. I start taking Plaquenil and Procardia, the first of many drugs.

(Continued tomorrow- Part 3: Never Let Em See You Sweat)