Yesterday, I met someone new that has lupus. I had a wonderful chat with her and her son, and thoroughly enjoyed our visit as we sat outside for an hour, enjoying the end of a summer morning at a Starbucks in downtown Phoenix. I learn something every time I meet another lupus patient, and yesterday was no exception! The strength and endurance of this lovely woman impressed me deeply, as she shared about the many challenges and changes that lupus has brought into her life over the past five years. Her son joined in our conversation, and seemed very understanding and supportive.
It was amazing to me how unruffled she seemed about facing multiple auto-immune diseases, each singly enough to disable her. With Lupus at the center of her health battles, like so many other women with lupus, she has been unable to work. Lupus flares and repeated hospitalizations have interrupted her attendance on the job. My personal health challenges with lupus just seem to pale in comparison! As I drove to an afternoon employment law seminar, I reflected on my conversation with the truly amazing woman I had just met.
Unfortunately, the too many lupus patients find themselves in a similar situation: unemployed due to their health. Despite the protections of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) the statistics are not very good for many lupus patients who lose their jobs. Later, as I sat through lunch and listened to a lawyer speak about recent legal updates to FMLA and ADA, my mind wandered back to the woman at Starbucks, and the others I know like her who became unemployed when lupus got in the way.
I am reminded once again to be extremely grateful and thankful for my job. I have been able to stay in my career, and have immense amounts of encouragement from others. The attorneys and support staff I work with, and my husband, family and closest friends all seem to stand by cheering me on. Without them, my story could have come out very differently. I just wish every lupus patient could have the blessing of an accommodating employer, and the encouragement to face the changing faces and impacts of lupus.