Years of my complaining of back and hip pain and chronic fatigue finally made sense on Dec. 17, 2013.

My very tiny, Filipino rheumatologist came into the exam room, sat down and said very frankly, "OK. You have lupus."

She then turned to the computer, started typing and said, "You might not be able to have kids, so try not to get pregnant because there's a 75 percent chance that you'd miscarry. Start drinking more water. We're going to make you exercise. You should take more vitamin D..."

She rambled on for another minute while my mind was still spinning. The only thing I knew about Lupus was what House taught me.

My entire life had just shifted. But this wasn't a bad thing.

Finally, after years of doctors not believing in my pain, someone had a word for what I was feeling.

After nearly a decade of testing, someone could explain what was wrong with me.

I had this immense sense of relief because someone finally understood and was able to help me cope with the pain and fatigue and anger that came from not knowing exactly what was wrong.

May is Lupus Awareness Month. Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack itself instead of the bacteria and viruses white blood cells would normally take on. It manifests in different ways for everyone, but common symptoms are fatigue, headaches, painful or swollen joints, a butterfly-shaped rash across the nose and cheeks and anemia.

This invisible illness affects 1.5 million Americans and 5 million people around the world, according to the Lupus Foundation of America.

Celebrities like Selena Gomez, Toni Braxton and J Dilla have suffered from the disease.

It's not contagious. It's not something that can be spread. It's a genetic disorder that affects mostly women of African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian and Pacific Islander and Native American decent.

However, Lupus doesn't see race. It doesn't see sex. It doesn't discriminate by socioeconomic levels or any other social construct.

I encourage you to educate yourself. Wear purple to support the people around you with this chronic disease.

Talk with someone who has the diagnosis and learn from what they have to say. Read about it online and make sure this invisible illness is researched and treated.

For those of you who want a real insider scoop, check out LupusChick.com. Marisa Zeppieri-Caruana — one of the strongest women I've seen — and her crew have some amazing insights and are always sharing other lupus patients' stories along with their own.

I hope you'll join me and Snoop Dogg and raise your hand in a "L" shape for Lupus Awareness Month.

— Reach Katherine Ranzenberger at kranzenberger@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDKatherine

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