health & fitness opinion

Be Kind to Chronically Ill People, Wear a Mask

I have always believed that most people in the world are kind. During the pandemic I’m seeing many acts of kindness — people grocery shopping for their elderly neighbors, helping friends who are unemployed, and wearing masks to help stop this awful virus. As a person with a chronic illness, I appreciate this so much.

My life is not easy. I live with a condition called lupus. It is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks itself. Your immune system thinks healthy tissue in your body is an invader. It can affect one or lots of systems in your body such as your heart, lungs, and more. My main issues are my joints and kidneys.

Lupus is genetic, but it can stay dormant in your body until it’s triggered by something. For me it was the flu. I got really sick and never fully recovered. I got a strange rash on my face and my doctor recognized it and said I needed to see a rheumatologist right away. I was lucky, many people with lupus don’t get diagnosed for years because the symptoms come and go and can be really different in each person.

Today there are medications that treat it, but you can still die from severe cases. My case is managed with medication, but I still deal with symptoms every day. I have chronic pain and fatigue. I have brain fog, which means it’s hard to concentrate and remember things. I also have side effects from my medications. Since the immune system is overactive with lupus, my pills actually suppress my immune system. That means I get sick easily. It means if I catch the coronavirus, I would get extremely sick and probably die.

So what does that mean for me right now? It means I can’t really leave the house. I have to stay home as much as possible. I do have medical appointments I can’t miss. Some of them have been via telehealth, but some I have to go to the office or to get blood tests to make sure my medications are still working right. I have to get my kidney function tested every 6 months.

I have to be extra careful. I never leave the house without a mask. In fact I have a whole collection of medical and non-medical face masks. I found most of them here on this site. I have the medical kind and also cloth masks with a pocket for filters. I have some really cool mouth masks in my favorite color (light blue!) and with stars and suns on them. I try to stay positive in these hard times by making my face coverings fashionable.

Most people are kind when I tell them about my health issues. I have a very supportive family and friends. My job understands and lets me work from home when I’m feeling bad. Of course everyone is working from home right now, which is nice. I hope it stays that way even after the pandemic is over. I’m a computer programmer and there’s really no reason for me to go into an office anyway. It’s the same for a lot of jobs, don’t you think?

I do want to call out the people who are not wearing masks. It’s selfish and you’re putting yourself and other people in danger. It’s not a political issue. It’s a matter of safety and science. Are masks perfect? No, but they will help stop the spread and they do help in places where people are wearing them. So do your part because people like me want to live through this and have a life again someday. Be kind.

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