Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), commonly known as lupus, snatched away Shrradha’s childhood, but she has grown up to be a woman who continues to look at life with rose-tinted glasses.
For those of us who are used to reading the newspaper every day or following the news on television, it would seem surprising that we haven’t descended into the depths of depression. Stories on crimes, violence, and terrorism abound, of course, but perhaps even worse are the stories of youngsters taking their own lives.
From the 12-year-old who killed herself for failing an exam to the 18-year-old who decided there was no reason left to live since his parents refused to buy him a bike, such stories are quite frequent.
Mumbai resident Shrradha Parekh’s story is proof that things almost always get better. A strident voice against body shaming, Shrradha’s obesity is a result of her illness and the steroids that were a part of her treatment. She says,
However, there are many who are obese without an underlying illness, or do not match the societal expectations of normalcy. That doesn’t mean it’s okay to mock or shun them. A bit of kindness can make a big impact in somebody’s life.
When I was six, I fell sick. I had butterfly rashes all over my face. After initially saying it was just a ‘normal fever’, the doctors decided it was TB. It was a wrong diagnosis. I reacted badly to the medicines and would get such bad headaches that I would bang my head against a wall for them to stop.
When I was eight, my BP shot up and the rashes came back. The doctor said they were mosquito bites and gave me medicine.
When I was nine, I had a high fever and such a bad stomach ache that I could not stand or sit. They asked to sleep on a block of ice to bring my temperature down. Doctors finally diagnosed my condition as SLE.
SLE is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect almost any organ system. Also known simply as lupus, the disease causes the body's immune system to attack healthy tissue in many parts of the body.
They put me on steroids and my face puffed up like a balloon. A few months later, I underwent a kidney biopsy on local anaesthesia because they were scared I wouldn’t survive being put under. I was given three to six months to live.
When I was 10, I underwent chemotherapy and lost my hair. My classmates thought I had cancer. But I was not scared. I thought, “My parents never cried in front of me, so how could I have cancer?”
When I was 12, I had a paralytic attack. My mother panicked and doctors did not know if I would survive. It was a miracle that I was back to normal in a day. My bones were so fragile due to my illness, that I had countless fractures by then.
Between all of this, I had water retention at some point and lived on a diet of three biscuits and three glasses of water for a month.
Due to her health issues, Shrradha had to drop out of school and finish her education as a private candidate. While treatment and lots of care gradually improved her health, Shrradha had extremely low self-esteem. She says, “People would talk about how I didn’t have the normal education or the conventional good looks and how my parents had to sell our house to pay my medical bills. I would feel terrible.”
For a long time, she stayed holed up inside her house, but her parents and sister supported her every step of the way, and at her mother’s insistence, in 2006, she decided to take the first of many baby steps and started stepping out. In 2008, the unimaginable happened and most of her symptoms went into remission. Shrradha’s mother passed away in 2011, but it brings her happiness to know that she at least saw her healthy. Today 35-year-old Shrradha is cured but does need to take precautions and be careful.
Shrradha is driven by Eleanor Roosevelt’s lines,
The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.
Shrradha works for a recruitment firm while also having her own numerology and tarot reading consultancy. Due to her life experiences, Shrradha is an extremely spiritual person. She feels patience is a quality that is lacking in most people. Things will not change overnight, but with time, effort, and lot of patience, adversity can be overcome. Instead of forcing children to meet their expectations, parents should focus on making them resilient, feels Shrradha.
She says, “Look at how far I have come. Today I dream of buying a house for my family. I want to be a plus-size model to inspire women to accept themselves as they are and to be confident in their scars. I dream of falling in love. My skin still bears the marks of all the steroids and medications but doctors did not name me ‘miracle child’ for no reason. SLE is an incurable disease and yet here I stand today, a reminder to everyone to always have faith and love yourself as you are.”