Zola Brunner: Beyond Lupus
Hi there I am Zola, the lupus warrior behind the instagram page @beyondlupus. I started the page motivated by many many stories of women and men who share their stories with lupus and how it affects them.
To put it simply, lupus is an autoimmune illness when your body attacks itself. It recognises the healthy cells as unhealthy cells and launches a war on the cells that are good and healthy. These war zones range from invading prominent organs, to skin tissue, joints, blood cells, heart and lungs...any body system really.
What this does is weaken your immune system because the white blood cells are working tirelessly to attack and defend itself everywhere and all the time. Talk about having a full time job plus a side hustle!
It is a tricky condition to diagnose because no two lupus cases are alike...
I was diagnosed with Lupus Panniculitis on April 11th 2018. My docs say it is a rare variant of systemic lupus erythematosus otherwise known as SLE. For a while the oncologists and rheumatologists were not sure if I had lupus or lymphoma (a cancer of the lymph nodes). Through their multiple test discoveries I was told "your illness is best described as a pink canary with a wooden leg" and “the pathologists are quite excited about this discovery although this may not be great news for you” to “it’s like Christmas in July for us”. I’ve heard it all. These unusual analogies highlight an interesting point. We're not dealing with an ordinary case here.
My form of lupus is characterized by hard nodules that are red, painfully discomforting and increasing in size. The first nodule appeared on my thigh (it looked like a grew a third hip), the second on the arm (the size that the arm grew could certainly compete with THE INCREDIBLE HULK) and recently it found its way on my face (it looks like had time in the boxing ring). I can relate to the stories of lupus warriors from their multiple hospital visits, nausea, fever, diagnosis uncertainty, chemotherapy and of course the classic LUPUS FLARE UP.
Now before I was diagnosed with lupus I originally had rheumatoid arthritis, another autoimmune condition that causes joint inflammation. I came across a reading that suggested cutting out gluten from my diet that would ease the joint pain. So as of January 2018 I cut out all wheat, bread, cookies, flour based meals and never turned back. The joint pain eased, I was mobile again and I had no regrets.
But of course as life happens one condition was not enough. Once my lupus diagnosis was established and I had endured my second round of hospital visits, chemotherapy and overall weakness I knew that there had to be an alternative solution to the daily fatigue, discomfort... something had to change.
That change was to consult a homeopath, use alternative medicine and introduce a new eating plan to treat my life-long illness, a close friend if you will.
I knew that if I were to ease my lupus symptoms surely diet had something to do with it, it had previously worked with my RA.
The moment that I walked into Dr. Cooks homeopathic rooms, she asked me about my diet and suggested I do the following:
- CUT OUT GLUTEN
- CUT OUT DAIRY to improve my metabolism and energy levels, now I replace all things dairy with coconut milk
- CUT OUT NUTS to avoid any allergies and to assist my very weak immune system
- CUT OUT RED MEAT, red meat is quite a dense and rich meat that builds acid. When you have high acidity in the body, it creates the perfect environment for lupus to thrive which lowers my resistance to healing.
- CUT OUT REFINED SUGAR, the brain is programmed to crave sweet foods but refined sugar alternatives are plentiful from liquid alternatives of pure maple syrup to dried alternative such as raisins and of course an abundance of fresh fruit.
- CUT OUT GRAINS so avoiding rice, corn, quinoa became the norm
You may be left wondering, well what are you eating? PLENTY and I am loving the new change of diet but more than than that how it makes my body feel, I have never felt healthier. I am not as tired, the discomfort has eased, the lupus flares still come to visit but it is not painful. I try to not restrict when and how I eat but I particularly enjoyed this day:
Morning - Green Smoothie: Kale, Apple, Ginger, Lemon, Cucumber (this combination is fresh, light and strengthens the immune system)
Snack - A glorious bowl of fresh fruit (it comes in handy when I have a sugar craving)
Lunch - Lettuce rolls stuffed with a freshly seared tuna salsa with thinly sliced fresh veg (I can easily enjoy 10 - 15 rolls in a sitting)
Snack - Water! Preferably infused with sprigs of mint and strawberry slices
Dinner - Steamed Butternut topped with kale, beetroot and drizzled lemon juice and olive oil
Lupus has changed me. My disorganized immune system has graciously led me to embrace it though plant-based living, creating an engaged social media community and in the future developing an organic skincare product.
This condition is not purely physical, it takes a mental adjustment that is not always easy but is it ever meant to be? They say that the body is a divine temple, I truly believe that no truer words have been spoken. I have to make the most of it and treat this temple well with what I have and can.
South African native Zola Brunner (@_zolabrunner) found strange bruises on her legs that turned into painful bumps that turned into nodules/tumours the size of a full hand. A biopsy was taken of the nodules which came back with conflicting results. Thereafter taking a Full Blood Test, her white cell count was exceptionally low. The doctors suspected that this was a type of cancer. Twenty five, in the prime of her career, her life was turned upside down when she was admitted into hospital. After months and months of tests, biopsy's, specialist visits and uncertainty she was diagnosed with Lupus Panniculitis with hints of T-cell lymphoma. Research has shown that 7/10 lupus patients will observe some type of effect on their skin. It comes up in the form of rashes, lesions, bruising, scarring, ulcers, raised sores, redness...essentially it is uncomfortable.
Zola's story is your story and this is when she created the instagram page BeyondLupus (@beyondlupus_) to share stories of other lupus survivors enduring and finding ways to overcome their illness.
Despite your condition, you are a warrior
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