As many as four million Americans are living with Sjögren’s syndrome, nine out of 10 of which are women. I am one of those women. Sjögren’s is one of the most prevalent autoimmune diseases and it affects your entire body. It can occur alone or in the presence of another autoimmune connective tissue disease like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or scleroderma.
Living with Sjögren’s over the past seven years has been a challenge. I’ve had to make many adjustments but I’ve learned to live a healthy and happy life. Sjögren’s syndrome can be disruptive, adding emotional and financial strain to your daily life. Some common symptoms include dry eyes and mouth, fatigue, chronic pain, major organ involvement, neuropathies, and lymphomas. It can also cause dysfunction in organs like your kidneys, lungs, liver, pancreas, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, and central nervous system. These symptoms sometimes mimic or overlap with other diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Stress is a major factor that causes my body to flare. Learning how to decrease my stress has been a major focus over the last few years. Switching jobs, cancelling appointments, limiting my activities and really monitoring my body closely has been a priority for me. Searching for education and resources as well as receiving support has been beneficial in my healing and getting healthy, living with this disease.
I started raising awareness and providing education and support in 2011. I created The Sjögren’s and Lupus Foundation of Hawaii in 2015 to increase opportunities to make a difference for those living with autoimmune diseases in Hawaii. I wanted to share what I’ve learned to help others living with Sjögren’s, lupus, and other autoimmune diseases. Last year, we had our first conference where we raised awareness and shared lots of information.
Educating, supporting, and providing resources to help others live healthy and happy each day has been a dream come true for me. Sharing hope, opportunity, knowledge, and support is the foundation’s goal and this year’s conference will provide lots of options for everyone who joins us. The Sjögren’s and Lupus Health and Wellness Conference 2018 features some amazing speakers and vendors with great knowledge to share with everyone who attends.
Remember to start each day with a grateful heart! Please remember everyone's body is different and unique. Always discuss any areas of concern about your autoimmune disease with your doctor.
For more information and to register for the Conference visit slfhawaii.org.
Melaca Cannella, RN is President and Founder of Sjögren's and Lupus Foundation of Hawaii. She has been educating people about Sjögren’s syndrome and lupus since 2011, when she was diagnosed with Sjögren’s. She's currently living healthy and happy and writes a blog about her life at alwaysbehealthyandhappy.org