WebMD's My Story: How a Reader Faces Lupus 1 Day at a Time

Karin Gelschus turned her life around when she changed her attitude about her chronic disease.

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 10, 2012
From the WebMD Archives

At 23, I was on top of the world. I had my dream job as a writer and traveled all over North America to research stories. I bought my first townhouse. I was loving life.

After a trip to Montreal, I developed the flu. I was exhausted. I often got tired after trips, but this time was different. My hands were shaking, my joints were stiff, and my heart was racing. I could barely make it up the stairs. In the days following, my symptoms worsened. The pain felt even worse when doctor after doctor could not figure out what was wrong. They tested me for Lyme disease, rheumatoid arthritis, tuberculosis, and a dozen other diseases. Finally, after months of excruciating pain, I was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic and very serious autoimmune disease that can damage the joints, organs, and skin.

It can take months for lupus medications to start working, and I got much sicker before I got better. Forty pounds underweight and discouraged, I realized I had to do something to escape the dark, lonely place I found myself. That summer, I started turning things around.

I thought to myself, "I can't control what's happening to my body, but I can control my thoughts. So what can I do to stay positive?" I looked for ways to make myself feel better every day.

Then, as now, I turned to my family and friends for support. They listen when I need them to, offer advice when I ask, and join me every year in running a 5K for lupus research. Having a strong support network and giving back floods me with inspiration and happiness.

At 27 years old, I've overcome more than most in their entire lifetimes, and I'm proud to have the strength to continue to fight such a complex disease.

Karin's Tips on Coping With Lupus

"Leave yourself notes. I put one that reads 'You'll feel better once you get moving' on my nightstand and one that reads 'We make you feel better' on my pill box. These notes make me smile!"

"Keep a journal. I keep one of inspirational quotes, nice things said about me, and small goals I achieve, like running three miles or getting an A."

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Lupus

1. Could another condition or medications be causing my lupus symptoms?

2. What lifestyle changes can I make to manage my lupus?

3. Are there support groups in my area for people with lupus?

4. Do I need to see other specialists?

5. How often should I come in for checkups?

Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of "WebMD the Magazine."