By Joanna Mechlinski
Think of all the tiny pleasures that make up your days. You probably start your morning with a cup of coffee, prepared just the way you like it. No doubt you’re able to drive yourself wherever you need or want to go, whenever you want to go. You have a solid circle of friends that you often meet for lunch or to see a movie.
For the millions of people living with lupus, many of the commonplace things that most healthy people tend to take for granted can be a challenge, if not downright impossible. Many are not able to hold regular employment; still others are not able to drive. Some may have had to give up favorite foods or beverages, as they cause their symptoms to flare up. Social outings, even as simple as meeting friends for lunch or at the movies, lead to a great deal of planning as to whether the person will be able to get through the travel, time spent there and travel back without causing themselves too much pain afterward. Many times, a person might think he or she will be able to attend, only to have to cancel on the last minute – something that not everyone will understand, causing the person to lose social connections and become isolated.
Recently the Lupus Foundation of America invited the public to take part in a new challenge, called Cut it Out. Participants are asked to choose one thing they enjoy and to cut it from their lives for two weeks. If there is any cost to the item or activity, they are encouraged to donate the total they would have spent toward lupus research and awareness.
Luckily for the participants, their challenge lasts only fourteen days. However, for people living with lupus – and countless other illnesses and disabilities – there is no end in sight. They must adjust to a life without certain things, period.
That said, this activity is a fantastic idea. While it’s nearly impossible for someone not faced with an illness or disability to really fathom what it’s like to live with one, this small challenge provides a solid glimpse on what it feels like to abruptly give up something you enjoy and likely take for granted. It shouldn’t be limited to the Lupus Foundation. We should help promote the concept to all our friends and family, regardless of the challenges we face, encouraging them to walk in our shoes for only two weeks. Chances are, when that period is up, they will understand a bit more clearly that our everyday walk is much more painful and stressful than they ever imagined. While they can’t solve our problems or take away our pain, a population with greater awareness can help better support us on our daily journey.