By Jessica Olvera, Co-Sports Editor
If you’ve been paying attention, then you know that there are those young adults who truly believe that they’re invincible against the coronavirus and will take the chance of exposing themselves to fulfill their spring break plans. But, the chances of contracting the virus are far greater for those in higher-risk groups.
And we all know what the people in those groups look like: our grandparents, right?
Well sometimes, they look like me.
I have Lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), which is an autoimmune disease that attacks your body’s immune system and organs. Lupus mainly affects the face and the joints but can affect major organs including the kidneys. According to statistics from The Lupus Foundation of America, 90 percent of people living with Lupus are women, people of color are two to three times more likely to suffer from it than Caucasians, and most develop the disease between the ages of 15-44.
Lupus can’t be cured and it has taken its toll on me both physically and mentally. Symptoms of those who have it vary from sore muscles and aching wrists to the more serious. I’m one of the lucky ones graced with Costochondritis, an inflammation of the cartilage in my rib cage that feels like my heart is going to burst out of my chest.
I was diagnosed at the age of 18, I’m now 22 but often feel like at least three times that age with all the health problems that can flare up at any time. That is why I must stick to a specific routine that includes taking eight pills a day, slathering my face in vitamin E oil, using heat packs to help my constant joint pain and arthritis, steroid shots to help relieve muscle spasms, and fighting the extreme fatigue to get through each day.
Dealing with Lupus as a young student is already a difficult task, but my struggle is compounded by COVID-19. Not only do I have to be even more vigilant in terms of social distancing due to my suppressed immune system, but I have to worry that I will lose access to one of the medications I need to stabilize my condition.
It’s Hydroxychloroquine, which is derived from chloroquine and is also used to fight malaria. There has apparently been some success in using it on those infected with COVID-19 but there are terrible side effects. President Trump won’t stop praising it even though his top medical advisers are hardly endorsing it. On March 29, the USFDA approved the drug for emergency treatment for COVID-19 patients. While that decision might be based on the president following his gut rather than sound scientific research, there’s nothing speculative about the risk to me and others if our prescriptions can’t be refilled because there’s a shortage due to it being used as a last chance hope for COVID-19 patients.
I know how my body acts without it, and not having it scares me because I know the force inside my body that I fight daily will only get stronger in the years to come.
Four years ago I was at softball practice during my freshman year at Mt. San Antonio College. I had just finished a series of vigorous conditioning workouts and my face felt on fire, as if it burned to the touch. The sweat dripping down my face felt like acid. Then I saw red, peeling blotches appear on my face. I immediately went to see my dermatologist and was told that I should get tested for something I had never heard of before: Lupus.
On the third day after being tested, my mom received a letter in the mail that contained my results. I had tested positive. At 18 years old.
She burst into tears and I just sat on the couch, wondering how much it would affect my life going forward. It has and is still something I have to deal with. But one of the problems with so-called invisible diseases next to living with one, is that most people don’t understand or even know about it.
With the threat of the coronavirus, it’s taken on a far different toll. Now, friends, family members, and outsiders could be putting me in danger by not social distancing and keeping me from being exposed to a disease that they may not even know they have but that could potentially kill me.
But even those who know I have it are an issue. Because I am taking a medication that may have some effect on COVID-19, my family sometimes pressures me into being the one to go outside and grab all the necessities like groceries, laundry soap, and the current holy grail of the world: toilet paper.
Yes, I can control how often I go out, but I can’t control access to a drug that runs out. Like all of us, I don’t know what’s to come tomorrow, next week or months from now. It’s a frightening time for everyone and all we can do is do the best we can to take care of ourselves.
So if you happen to see me out and you instinctively walk closer to say hello or get my attention and I seem to be backpedaling instead of happy? Don’t take it personally just because I have to.