Many imagine the lifestyle of a celebrity to include stress perfectly balanced with a luxurious life, but for British singer, actress, entrepreneur and media personality, Kelle Bryan, this is a potentially life threatening cocktail and she is not alone.
Seal, Toni Braxton (who was recently hospitalized due to the condition), Selina Gomez, Paula Abdul, Maurissa Tancharoen, Nick Canon and Kelle Bryan all share more than the celebrity lifestyle in common; they all have Lupus.
What is Lupus? The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) describes Lupus as a complex and poorly understood condition that affects many parts of the body. It’s an incurable immune system illness, probably genetic in origin (*as cited on LupusUK.org).
‘Poorly understood’ and ‘probably’ are words that you don’t want associated with medical conditions but this is the reality of Lupus.
Simply put, Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease which sees the body’s immune system become hyperactive, white blood cells will attack bacteria, viruses as well as normal, healthy tissue. Symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, rashes on the face, wrists and hands, headaches, hair loss, high blood pressure, stomach pain and depression. The fact that these symptoms may or may not occur all at the same time is a leading cause of why it often takes so long to diagnose. The facts are;
- Lupus affects over five million people worldwide
- It mainly affects women but also affects men
- It’s incurable but manageable with medication
- The environment, sunlight, stress, and certain medicines may trigger symptoms
- Researchers are still trying to understand Lupus
- Lupus can go into remission
There are three different types of Lupus:
- Systemic lupus erythematosus: can involve many parts of the body and is the most common strain of the disease
- Discoid lupus erythematosus: mainly affects the skin
- Drug-induced lupus: is triggered by a number of different medicines and can go away when medicine is stopped.
In 1998, Kelle Bryan was left devastated following a series of stressful events that eventually led to a diagnosis of Lupus.
Kelle had just performed at the biggest event in her music career to date, as a member of RnB girl group Eternal, when she received a fax to say that she was no longer required in the band.
The news hit her hard.
“I remember waking up one morning and I couldn’t lift the index finger on my left hand, within a week my hand was fixed into a claw”. Following an appointment with her GP, Kelle was advised to take Nurofen yet in the weeks that followed, she continued to experience more symptoms; ulcers in the mouth, ulcers all over her body and scalp, rash on her face, extreme fatigue, gingivitis and memory loss.
Kelle continued self-medicating as advised by her GP. It was after a visit to her dentist for her mouth symptoms that Kelle was finally made aware of Lupus. Her dentist recommended that she see a private doctor immediately.
There is no conclusive test for Lupus therefore Kelle had to go through a series of tests based on her symptoms. Several tests were done including blood tests, biopsies and painful nerve shot tests, results of the tests also revealed that Kelle had liver and kidney damage.
At the age of 21, six weeks after her initial symptoms, Kelle was diagnosed with Lupus, she was told that she would not be able to have children and that her life expectancy could not be determined.
Through medication, nutrition and life style management (limited-stress), Lupus can go into remission. Following her diagnosis, Kelle remained in remission for 10 years.
The experience of being an only child influenced Kelle’s desire to have children and after marrying her husband in 2010, she decided to start a family. With guidance from a specialist doctor, Kelle came off her medication, had a healthy pregnancy and gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby in 2011.
However, after breastfeeding for three months, the hormonal changes and stress that comes with being a new mother caused Kelle’s Lupus symptoms to flare. At the time, Kelle was also filming Mrs Jones for BBC1 and the effects of a week of aggressive treatment made her hair fall out.
With support and encouragement from family, friends, colleagues, her mentor musician Bob Geldof and a positive mental and emotional attitude, Kelle persevered.
In 2013, after giving birth to her second child, further symptoms of Lupus returned, aggressively; a tick, poor vision, slurred speech and seizures resulting in a Coma.
After three days in a coma and more tests, Kelle was informed that Lupus had affected her brain. Further complications including Meningococcal left Kelle’s health in a dire state.
Kelle described the recovery process as slow and like: “being in a goldfish bowl. I had to learn to read, write, walk and talk again.”
Yet, she remains fighting and winning!
Kelle Bryan remains focused on her TV career, her business, Advocate Agency who champion creative talent from multicultural and diverse backgrounds and on being the best mum she can be. And once again, she is using her amazing voice through a campaign to raise awareness and help to effect change for lupus sufferers.
Coping with Lupus, Kelle’s advice to others and reminder to herself is:
“Give yourself a break, you don’t have to be strong every day. Be who you are today.”
Contact Kelle Bryan at http://advocate.agency
For more information about Lupus, visit www.lupusuk.org.uk