In 2008, Bianca Henriquez began noticing she was unable to keep up with her busy lifestyle. At nineteen, she was accustomed to going full throttle—exercising, attending school and socializing at night. It bothered her that she did not have the strength or energy to keep up with her peers. Lethargic and achy, she began to sleep thirteen hours a day. When she lost fifty pounds in only a few months, she began to worry. After three months of appointments and tests, Bianca was diagnosed with lupus.
Lupus is an autoimmune and chronic inflammatory disease that can affect various parts of the body. When the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues, it causes inflammation, swelling, pain and cellular damage to the skin, joints, blood and kidneys. In Bianca’s case, lupus affects her kidneys and joints. For the past two years, she has been dealing with chronic muscle and joint fatigue, as well as pain in her elbows, knees and hips. She also has had numerous kidney stones.
Even at twenty-one years old, Bianca recognizes the importance of being proactive in her healing process. Before deciding upon any treatment, she reads about the experiences of other lupus patients. An organization that has helped her make informed decisions is the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation in New York. With their help and her newfound knowledge, Bianca is better able to verbalize her concerns and thoughts to her doctors.
Based on her research, Bianca has chosen not to take medications. Afraid of the side effects and secondary complications certain drugs can cause, she has chosen instead to control her pain through dietary changes and supplement use. A vegan diet and daily vitamin B12 give Bianca more energy and help relieve her neuropathic pain.
Although lupus has altered her lifestyle, she continues to participate in activities that make her happy. By listening to her body and resting when needed, Bianca has been able to balance working full-time, performing burlesque at local New York nightspots, and spending time with family and friends. She even enjoys biking in Central Park when her body allows it.
Honoring her body and trusting her intuition, Bianca tackles life as it comes. She is a go-getter, determined not to let lupus slow her down. She believes that future technology and medical advances will improve the way she is able to live, and has hope that one day she will be pain-free.
Being open with those closest to her about her condition, which she jokingly refers to as “Frankie,” allows her to feel free and in control of her life. To Bianca, the pain does not define her, but rather is something she just has to live with right now.
“I am still the same person who has dreams and hopes of a great future.”