For those who think that having Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis are mutually exclusive (can't occur together, in this case, in the same body/person), they're wrong. It is possible to have both of these illnesses. I should know, because I do.
It's one of those things that tells people you're a really intense person. Like, oh, when you do something, you do it all way, right? Yes, getting Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis were my ultimate goal in life. Is there anything better?
Okay, sorry, I'm being a bit snarky here. The reality is, we deal with the hand we're dealt. But it definitely sucks sometimes. If it's not one thing, it literally is the other. The winter months are particularly bad for my Arthritis, and the summer months are particularly bad for the Lupus. There truly is never a day off.
The very brief version of what having these two illnesses means is: Rheumatoid Arthritis affects joints and Lupus affects tissues (muscles and organs). This basically means that all of my bodily systems are involved in disease mode.
It's not like love and marriage. You can have one without the other. And if you have the choice, I would certainly say pick one, not both.
As much as my life doesn't make sense with these illnesses, in many ways, it does. I knew that when I was first diagnosed, I didn't simply have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Yes, I had the joint pain, swelling, and deformity. But I also had this constant feeling of being nauseous and dizzy. The best way to describe it is that I felt like I had been hit by a Mack Truck, like someone had plastered me against a wall.
For me, Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis are pretty much equal opportunity offenders. I can't say that there is a part of my body that hasn't been affected by one or the other. I imagine little gnomes with chisels, pounding away at my knee caps, while a wave of nausea hits me so hard that it stops me in my tracks. I'm not crazy, just imaginative.
The very first label that was put on me when I was trying to get diagnosed was Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease. This means that you have features of several diseases, but not enough features to be diagnosed with any one in particular. This is a very vague classification, obviously, and to me, this is just a fancy way for a doctor to avoid coming up with a firm diagnosis.
When I was first diagnosed, I was told that I had Rheumatoid Arthritis only. Although I am not a doctor, this honestly didn't explain all of the symptoms I was having. I was subsequently diagnosed with Systemic Lupus. This is known as Overlap Syndrome. It means that you have enough of the diagnostic criteria to be diagnosed with both illnesses.(Overlap Syndrome should not be confused with Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease)