Barbara Abrams: A Chameleon to Lupus
Barbara Abrams has lived with lupus for 40 years — her approach is to expect the unexpected and to do the best she can every day.
“Things just happen with lupus, and I’ve learned to accept the uncertainty,” says Barbara. “I have learned many wellness techniques to adapt to my situation.”
Goes with the Flow
Like too many people with lupus, Barbara’s situation has not been easy. One complication of her lupus is thickening of the blood, which led to a stroke in her eye, leaving her with no peripheral vision. "Because the blood was too thick to circulate properly, some of the vessels in my brain atrophied, and my head still hurts at times. I will have to take a blood thinner and be constantly monitored for the rest of my life.” But Barbara’s answer is to simply do what needs to be done — never missing a doctor’s appointment or test, using eyeglasses to read and wearing sunglasses outdoors to protect her eyes from the glare.
Because she developed scar tissue in her intestinal track, Barbara has cut out sugary drinks and spicy foods to prevent inflammation. In response to her body’s hypersensitivity to the environment, she makes sure to wear a cap or wig when she goes out and spends most of her time indoors. Barbara learned the hard way that her body cannot tolerate cold; she caught pneumonia last year going from the air conditioned subway cars into the hot sun and then into an air conditioned office building. Heavy antibiotics were necessary to combat the bacteria. Now, she does her best to avoid the weather outside in winter and air conditioning in summer.
Taking many medications to treat her various manifestations of lupus, Barbara describes having to take all her “goodies” with her whenever she leaves home. “I don’t drink or smoke to cut down on possible triggers that might cause a flare. I don’t stay up late and get plenty of rest. I’ve learned to adapt. I’m a chameleon to lupus.”
Active in the Community
Barbara has participated in lupus research for several years, providing blood samples for testing. “I love being in trials because I’m getting medical attention I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Devoted to the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation’s Brooklyn Outreach Center, Barbara considers the members her family. “The Brooklyn support group gave me a place to belong when I had nowhere else to turn. It is a loving place with people who always understand me.”
Despite limitations, at 67 Barbara is also active in her Brooklyn community. She volunteers at a nearby senior center and is a block watcher. Perhaps most unique, Barbara is a designated graffiti cleaner, dedicated to keeping her neighborhood spic and span.
“I have shaped my life so I can adapt no matter what is thrown at me. Lupus makes its own decisions, and I make mine. I choose to do the best I can each and every day.”