This blog was written in honor of National Lupus Awareness Month.
Never would I have imagined I would become a licensed marriage and family therapist and that I’d work at a hospital. At least that wasn’t the plan after graduating from high school or during the first two years of college. My parents often share a story of when I was three years old, and I helped them paint the walls of our New York City apartment. My dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. He said my response was, “I want to be a painter.”
As the three-year-old version of me who aspired to someday become a painter of apartments became a young adult, I felt lost and uncertain about my journey. Life was about going through the motions. I went to college because my parents wanted me to continue my education and succeed as a professional adult. I wavered back and forth between business and screenwriting but was always afraid of failing, or just getting the nerve to begin the process. My track suddenly changed after lupus caused my kidney function to fail in the summer of 2003.
How Lupus Became a Blessing
At the age of 18 I developed a chronic medical condition that would amount to many visits to the hospital and getting stuck with needles almost every week. The fear of uncertainty became more realistic with every passing minute, as I wondered if lupus was going to be my death sentence.
During the first three years of my battle with lupus, I experienced severe joint and bone pain, extreme fatigue, hair loss, butterfly rashes over my eyebrows and the bridge of my nose, and anemia. Trying to complete a semester of college at any given time during the first two years was impossible. The pain was so unbearable, I had to withdraw from my courses.
As I started showing some progress, lupus came back like a storm, this time causing end-stage renal failure and leading to dialysis. It felt like the end was near. I could have chosen to stay locked in the dark and not allow anyone into my new and scary world known as lupus, but something in me which I can’t explain, said everything was going to be fine. The fear that once consumed me began to slowly wash away like the waves of the ocean swallowing away the footprints of the sand. Sure enough, I miraculously recovered but wasn’t in the clear just yet.
After long deliberations and prayer, I was inspired to be an agent of change and give back in a way that encourages others who experience a similar road of pain and uncertainty. I chose for lupus to be a blessing for me, instead of it being a death sentence or a curse. Granted, there are times when I feel it’s a curse due to many restrictions I face such as limiting my exposure in the sun, the limited options of foods I can consume due to my kidney failure, and being immunocompromised. However, I’m constantly reminded by loved ones how far I’ve come since the days I felt crippled and unable to walk, or the more recent event when my wife and family members saw me intubated in the ICU for two weeks not knowing if I would live to kiss and hug them again.
My wife and doctors have joked about me having nine lives. Well, if that were the case, then I must be on at least my fifth life at this very moment and am doing all that’s possible to remain alive at life number five. I think my job is far from complete. As long as I have breath to breathe, and the strength to walk and speak, I still have more work to do. This condition has been my biggest enemy at times, yet has found a way to make me stronger. Lupus doesn’t have to be a death sentence, and it sure doesn’t have to define me or my ability to contribute to this world.
I came from not knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up, to knowing I wanted to be a counselor for the chronically ill. I came from being a relatively healthy child, to falling chronically ill in my adulthood life. I came from being scared and fearful of the unknown, to becoming resilient and hopeful for this day God gave me. Throughout life, I have been thrown many obstacles; yet those obstacles became challenges I learned to accept and overcome so I can continue the job I’ve been called to do while I’m still breathing.
How about you? What challenge or obstacle do you face in your own life that doesn’t have to hold you back or define you? How can you seek to overcome this obstacle in such a way it does not interfere with your ability to contribute meaningfully to the world?
Remember, no one is immune from challenges. We are all in this together!
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome
|Guest columnist Kenny Londono, MS, LMFT is a Clinical Psychotherapist at the AdventHealth Wellness Center Celebration