Lupus is never part of anyone’s plan. When I was younger, my “plan” in life was to become a nurse and join The Mercy Ships upon graduation. It was the perfect way to pair my free-spirited personality with my love to help those who desperately needed it.
As you can see, it didn’t pan out.
On April 22, 2001, my life as I knew it would change forever. I would be hit as a pedestrian by a drunk driver as I walked to my car one evening. I fought to survive, battling internal bleeding, multiple fractures and a head injury. Eventually, I was sent to rehab to begin the process of walking again. During this time I would be hit by a proverbial truck. At the age of 23, a diagnosis of Lupus was given after I suffered a small stroke.
I’m not going to lie to you. I didn’t handle all of this well. And while today I like to think I somewhat have my stuff together, I was a hot mess back then. I sulked. Threw a pity party or two (or twenty).
Then I got ahold of my emotions (hey, what can I say, I’m a passionate Italian), and I prayed…a lot! I gave myself a reality check and said, “Marisa, you literally survived getting run over by a truck. You can get through this too!” I felt in my heart if I was given a second chance at life, my job here wasn’t finished. No matter what was going to come at me with this disease, I was determined to not let Lupus ruin my life.
Lupus – Moving Past the Denial Period
When you are in your twenties, receiving a diagnosis of a disease that has no cure and can be life threatening is frightening and leaves you with a sense of uncertainty. I had never met anyone else with Lupus and most people were unfamiliar with it. In fact, most have never heard of it! Even though more people have Lupus than MS, Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell and Cerebral Palsy combined. Over the years, the disease has taught me so much about how strong I truly am. It has also shaped my character and personality. Today I am even more motivated to accomplish my dreams because I know how quickly life can be taken away. I am dedicated, even more compassionate towards other, and have a deeper focus on the important things in life.
My nursing career didn’t last long. Lupus can range from mild to life threatening and my case has been difficult. Through numerous strokes, heart issues, chemo, a brain aneurysm, and becoming wheelchair and bed bound for a season, I had to find another way to not only support myself but fulfill the desire within me to reach out and help others.
And so, a writing career was born.
It was a way for me to combine my love for the written word with what I had learned in school. Writing would also be the perfect vehicle to reach others through online and print media. I’ve realized there are millions of people out there who need to be able to relate to someone who has gone through a similar circumstance. And that connection can be built through words and not necessarily in-person contact.
About eight years ago, I took my writing one step further and began LupusChick.com. Today we are a top resource to those living with chronic illness around the globe. I had my first book published in May of 2013, titled, Lupus: Real Life, Real Patients, Real Talk. Filled with dozens of true, inspirational stories, the book is a survival guide for those newly diagnosed. It helps those who have hundreds of questions and need guidance.
Through my writing career and platform as Mrs. New York USA Universal 2015, I try to send one very clear message to both men and women, especially those with chronic and incurable diseases. This message is: A diagnosis, disability or disadvantage does not have to define us. Though there may be detours and speed bumps along the way, we can still reach our dreams in life. I am living proof.
Chronic Illness & Looking Forward
My husband always says, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken.” With Lupus, I’ve learned to be flexible and take bad days in stride (easier said than done). Who knows what God has in store next. My life has been a wild ride, but I know with Him in the driver’s seat, it is going to be an incredible journey. No one expected me to survive back in 2001, but God tells us that He came so we may have life, and have it more abundantly. Not only did He give me life, and has saved my life on multiple occasions, but He has put me on a path that is beyond anything I ever imagined.
Thankfully, He has a path for all of us. I believe He wants to use each one of us, each event we experience (no matter how painful and tragic) to reach out to another person and tell them there is someone who can bring peace back into our hearts. His name is Jesus.
While I would never push my faith on you, you will read about it every now and then on LupusChick. Personally, I believe faith is important. Life is hard. But having my hopes and faith in something bigger than my failing body has made life easier.
I hope you stick around and see all that we have to offer, and I look forward to hearing your story soon!