In the emergency department, I saw a 52-year-old female that was here for a flare up of her systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE). Let’s call her “Lupe.” So Lupe has been in and out of the hospital for the past several years for different reasons. One time it was for severe back pain. Another time was low energy from anemia. The most recent time was for acute lupus nephritis (kidney failure) which required for her to start hemodialysis every other day (hemodialysis is a method of purifying the blood when the kidneys aren’t working properly).
Lupe was here this time for a lot of critical lab values found on her blood work – a poor sign for those with kidney failure. SLE is a devastating disease, and it can affect almost everything in the body. If kidney failure is one of them, it’s usually a poor prognosis. I felt sorry for Lupe because she was so crippled from this menacing illness.
What is SLE?
So normally, our bodies create specific defense mechanisms to disease called antibodies. These antibodies attach themselves to infections and/or cancer. They either destroy the invader like a bomb or sound an alarm to the rest of the body so it can mount an attack. In SLE, these antibodies malfunction. Instead of attacking disease, they target healthy tissue. This leads to all kinds of destruction from the skin to the heart to the kidneys and everywhere in between.
The treatment of SLE is focused on managing symptoms and minimizing the risk of flares. Basically, that means there currently is no cure for the disease. We are giving medications to prevent these antibodies from attacking the body, but those antibodies will always come back. Well, what if we just replaced the cells that made the malfunctioning antibodies with new cells that work? Here’s some interesting research that has been shown to be successful in drug resistant SLE. Unfortunately it’s not quite ready for widespread use and is only available at the big name research universities.
Lupe did not meet the criteria for stem cell treatment at the time. So naturally, I thought she would be really depressed from all these constant flares and hospital admissions. Actually it was quite the opposite. Lupe had a great big smile on her face when I entered the room. She chuckled, made jokes with me, and thanked me for coming to see her. She radiated all this positive energy in the room. It’s as if the person lying in bed before me was a completely different person from the one I looked up on the computer.
Lupe replaced her bad luck with good luck.
Luck was traditionally described as a strange force that some believed to be controlled by magic and bizarre rituals: a baseball player performing this ritual before every at bat, a man at a restaurant throwing a pinch of salt over his shoulder after spilling salt, or a little girl crossing her fingers for good luck. Luck seemed to be out of this world, strange, and for the most part inconsistent. But what if we were able to control our own luck?
In 2003, this ten-year study on the nature of luck has suggested that people have the ability to create their own fortune. The results proposed that people who believed they were lucky created their own luck by these four principles:
- Creating and noticing chance opportunities
- Make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition
- Create self-fulfilling prophecies via positive expectations
- Adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good
Lupe created her chance opportunity by moving to an area near my hospital because of the great care she receives. She listened to her intuition and continued coming for treatment even though it seemed to be getting worse. Although she has a really severe case of SLE, Lupe was positive because she was alive. Lupe smiled and had joy. But above all else, she was resilient. She hasn’t given up. Her bad luck was on the cusp of turning good, if it hasn’t already.
I challenge you to create your own luck. Always be on the lookout for new opportunities. Listen to your gut and take the road less traveled. Stay unreasonably optimistic. And most of all, be strong.
Are you feeling lucky? Share your luck with us below!
By the way, May is Lupus Awareness Month!
To say NO to LUPUS, we must KNOW LUPUS. Share for awareness!
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