My Story: Jennifer Wasko

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Putting the Pieces Together

"Well, we know you have lupus and we are going to get you feeling better than ever!" These were the most validating, relieving words my current (wonderful) doctor said to me, after years of "you look fine to me"; "I can't find anything wrong with you"; "Go back to class, you are not sick"; "Why are you cancelling plans again?"; "What's wrong with you now?" and whispers about me being a liar and a hypochondriac. In no way am I happy to have a disease that has no cure which my aunt passed away from, that causes me to miss so much in life and has my body drained and in pain. But I'm thankful to finally know what I have.

Growing Up

Since a young child, I always had a cold, strep throat and every kind of "itis" there was at the time. In middle school, high school and college, my friends would be busy partying while I was at home, but I never had a problem with that because I never felt "up" to doing much. I remember friends telling me if I wanted to be their friend then I needed go out and party with them more, which was absurd to me, because I had no desire/energy to do those things.

Taking Lupus to School

I then became an elementary teacher who went right home from work, to bed or the couch. I did not think much of it due to the mentally and physically demanding job and other teachers complaining about feeling the same way. Each year at work I ended up using all of my sick days, personal days and having to use deduct days for lupus-related problems, which I still didn't know I had. It was almost three years ago, literally every day of the school year, my health was getting worse. All different types of problems ranging from various infections, swollen glands, fevers, hospitalizations, complications during surgeries, ecoli infection, severe fatigue, walking pneumonia, tennis elbow, and terrible pain in my feet and the list goes on. Through each of these problems, I would see my doctor, specialists, had ER and medi center visits, and hospital stays, but I never got accurate or informative answers. Along the way, most doctors were rude, made faces of disbelief and have come right out and told me to "suck it up". I felt myself getting worse by the day, sometimes by the hour depending what kind of day it was. I knew in my gut there was more to the story! I had switched doctors many times over the years since none helped me feel better, until I went to my current doctor who sat with me for an hour and listened!

From Diagnosis to a New Life

It was two weeks later from that first doctor visit that I found out I had lupus, which she now believes I have had since childhood. She sent me to a rheumatologist and to Hershey Medical, who all confirmed the diagnosis and had the same treatment plan. Since then I have also been diagnosed with overlap diseases of Sjogrens Syndrom, immunoglobin deficiency disorder and rheumatoid arthritis. I hate lupus and these other diseases, but love that I finally know what is going on with my body and have been proactive about it. In addition to the oodles of meds, I also take herbs and green juice. I've switched to eating as much organic and GMO free products as possible without going crazy about it. I stopped using items that are filled with toxic chemicals and started making my own household cleaners, laundry detergent, soaps, lotions, chap sticks, candles etc. which are organic/all natural and I also sell them online. I rest more often and without as much guilt as before I was diagnosed. Saying no or declining invitations still bothers me and makes me feel like I am missing out on life in ways, but I know it is for my own good. I have done aqua therapy and now I am a member of the local YMCA and I am loving their aqua classes, hot tub and some cardio work if I feel up to it. I recently started a community Facebook page to raise lupus awareness and to be a support place for others called "Lupus Life". Being able to put out words of encouragement or understanding and helping raise awareness, makes me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile, especially since I am not working right now.

I've switched to eating as much organic and GMO free products as possible.

I felt myself getting worse by the day, sometimes by the hour depending what kind of day it was.

I felt myself getting worse by the day, sometimes by the hour depending what kind of day it was.

Finding Support

That brings up the wonderful support system that lupus has shown me! My family is very helpful and comforting. Friends and family are understanding when I can't do what everyone else is doing. On more than one occasion, my coworkers raised money to donate to the Lupus Foundation of America and to help me and my husband out during these financially difficult times. Many also showed their support when my hubby and I walked the lupus walk in NYC by giving donations which also went to the Lupus Foundation of America. Everybody's love, support and caring (and listening to me complain) and the members and admins of online lupus support sites have all helped me more than they will ever know with this life-changing lupus. Now, if only there were a cure for lupus or if I could find a paying stay at home job, life would be even grander!

On more than one occasion, my coworkers raised money to donate to the Lupus Foundation of America.

About Jennifer Wasko

My Story: Jennifer Wasko
Jennifer Wasko is an Elementary Education teacher, currently on medical leave and sabbatical due to lupus related health. She is happily married for four years. Jennifer is fluent in sign-language, which her deaf husband has been teaching her since the day they met. She and her husband enjoy taking care of their pet cats, raising chickens, traveling and just spending time together. Some of their hobbies together are gardening, taking photos, playing at casinos and going to the beach. Visiting with loved ones, "making lemonade" in hard times and enjoying the simple things in life, are all important to Jennifer. Her dream is to someday live in Hawaii with her family!

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