At age 4, Lauren Lippincott learned she had type 1 diabetes. At age 12, after complaining about uncomfortably cold hands and feet, she was diagnosed with Raynaud’s disease. When Lauren was 16, her hair started falling out in patches ̶ she had alopecia areata. At age 18, as a freshman in college, her joints suddenly locked up and she was in debilitating, chronic pain. She found out she had ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis. At age 24, in an attempt to make her joints feel better, she tried different diets and was confirmed to have celiac disease and now must be gluten-free.
Lauren remembers clearly the day she learned that her diseases were all autoimmune diseases. “I went to a talk by the former head of BRI, Dr. Jerry Nepom, and he was describing the relationship between all autoimmune diseases and suddenly I saw the names of my diseases show up on his PowerPoint slide,” she says. “It suddenly clicked that all of these seemingly random diseases were not random at all, it was a moment of crystallization, of connecting HUGE dots. It felt empowering to learn more about my body and what I had been living with.”
Lauren takes a positive approach to dealing with her diseases. “I try very hard not to view myself as a sick person. Amid caring for my body in a moment of bad health – a painful week of joint pain,a very bad diabetes day – I focus hard on what my body can do and has done for me and I’m still able to feel deep gratitude for my life. My body helped me come back from a stroke (unrelated to autoimmune issues), and it gave me the gift of my young son. My experiences with my health also pushed me to pursue a career as a therapist who counsels others navigating a chronic illness, and working with my people – resilient, strong, tired, beautiful fighters trying to love the bodies that have often betrayed us – gives me so much courage and offers me so much grace in the face of disease.”
Lauren advises others not to worry about having more than one autoimmune disease. “I have so much compassion for anyone hearing another diagnosis come down the pipe,” she says. “I absolutely know how disheartening it is. While having one autoimmune disease does indicate the propensity to develop another, it is important to remember that propensity does not mean certainty. Please do not allow fear to rule your life. Having a rich, full life is possible with one or five autoimmune diseases! Lean on your family and friends, focus on your strengths and shore up where you need support. Be good to your body, because for better or for worse (and hey, I’ve been there) it’s the only body you get.”
Lauren also gets strength from BRI’s commitment to find the causes and cures for autoimmune diseases. “Having a powerhouse of knowledge, compassion and success fighting for my health and my future is incredible!” she emphasizes. “I have spent the majority of my health journey jumping from specialist to specialist looking for answers and being treated for one small factor of my health. In contrast, BRI’s approach to researching autoimmune disease across the spectrum of diseases makes me feel supported as a whole person versus a large jumble of diagnoses.
“I take comfort in BRI’s no-nonsense approach in searching for the root cause of autoimmune disease and not just because I have so many that need solving! Every time I see their tagline, ‘Progress against one is progress against them all,’ I’m reminded that BRI’s combined effort to tackle the enormous beast that is autoimmune disease is the best strategy for beating them.
“I’m incredibly grateful for all the people affiliated with BRI who have dedicated their careers, efforts and resources (be it monetary donations or blood samples) to help crack autoimmune disease. I dream of a future free from painful joints, needles and uncertainty with my health and I know BRI is in my corner. I’m also proud to be in theirs.”
May 17, 2018
Like What You Read?
Stay informed! Be sure you receive regular research updates. Subscribe
Join the Conversation
This blog does not provide medical advice, nor is it a substitute
for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.