In graduate school, she sometimes wore long white cotton gloves, long sleeves and a hat.In fact, her attempt to camouflage her puffy limbs on a study-abroad trip in England led to a severe flare-up of the disease that went untreated for weeks.
Her days were spent juggling prescription medications and handling hours-long doctor’s appointments. It was more than I could take; all I could think was, I can’t live, I can’t. She ended up in the voluntary psychiatric ward at Booth Memorial Hospital in Queens. Lupus is more common than leukemia, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and cystic fibrosis, and there is no cure.
She felt alone, and trapped indoors where the sun couldn’t hurt her. However, this painful, chronic autoimmune disease remains obscure to the public.
Her whole body was swollen and she was embarrassed by her appearance.
By the time she was on her flight home to New York, she couldn’t conceal her symptoms any longer and knew she was severely ill.
Until that picture becomes 80 to 85 percent developed, there may be some ambiguities as to what it is.” * * * Today, Bettinger is resigned to her illness. “I don’t have a husband or a child, so I still sometimes battle isolation, but I try to reach out in support groups.” It is common for sufferers of chronic illness to experience depression, according to a study published last year in the journal Social Work in Health Care, so support from friends, family and professionals is critical.
With the help of the psychiatric treatment she received at Booth Memorial, she slowly recovered from her bout of clinical depression. Lately she has been battling an inflammation of the skin around her eye. However, oftentimes the supporters do not understand the illness.
Over time, she started keeping her symptoms hidden from everyone. * * * Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease characterized by an overactive immune system that mistakenly attacks healthy tissue and organs in the body, including the skin, joints, kidneys, lungs, brain and heart.
This causes an unpredictable range of symptoms such as fatigue, rashes, joint inflammation, muscle pain or organ failure, some of which can lead to death.
While Lupus can strike anyone, 90 percent of its victims are women and most of the initial diagnoses occur between the ages of 15 and 44.
Bettinger was first diagnosed with lupus at the age of 10, after she developed a rash across her face, known as a “butterfly rash.” As she got older, Bettinger went to great lengths to hide her symptoms.