Meet LaShon Gurrola
Mother, Nana, Registered Nurse and Lupus Warrior
Recently, LSI found out Support Group Leader LaShon Gurrola, who is already a Registered Nurse, is going back to school to become a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)! Going back to school while working and supporting the lupus community is a huge undertaking. We asked LaShon to share her inspirational story to inspire and support the lupus community.
When were you diagnosed with lupus?
What type of lupus do you have?
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
How long did it take for a correct diagnosis?
Several years. I have to credit my PCP- Dr. Karim Yunez and my Rheumatologist Dr. Purani Palanaswami at Edwards-Elmhurst Hospital for not giving up and finding answers.
Were you misdiagnosed first?
How has your life changed since your diagnosis?
My life has taken a different course, my priorities are different, I focus on ways to make the lupus life better for others.
How has your diagnosis affected your family and friends?
I guess my children are affected most, sometimes I am unable to physically do things, I’m fatigued a lot, and they obviously have difficulty seeing me in pain or in the hospital. They have learned a lot about lupus and ways to be supportive to me. I have family members in healthcare/nursing- they have always seen me as the “strong one”, but they know I have overcome challenges.
I don’t have a lot of friends, I have lost some over the years. Mostly because my priorities changed and my willingness to serve the Lupus Community takes time and energy. Sometimes I don’t have any left for “friends”. I have some fantastic close friends that get it and understand why I’m driven in the direction I have been. I have an entire sisterhood (Gamma Pi Rho Lupus Sorority, Inc.) that supports me in my endeavors to reach the lupus community in ways I never thought possible. I have colleagues and friends in the Lupus Clinic at Rush University that will do almost anything for me. Lupus has caused me to miss event-like things with my children/grandchildren, my mother’s birthday celebration in 2019 I was in the hospital with a lupus flare. They all know I wished to be there and understand lupus was the reason I was not
there in presence, but there in my heart.
Has a lack of public awareness about lupus affected your quality of life?
It has caused some moments of lack of understanding and missed opportunities. When people aren’t aware, and lack an understanding of lupus and how it is not the same for everyone- it may cause confusion and misconceptions about the challenges faced by myself and others with lupus. Because of the lack of awareness, I have had to become my own best advocate in nearly every aspect of my life, health, work, family/personal, educational, social, and financial. Spiritually I have grown and look at my work in the lupus community as my assignment from whom I believe!
Is your employer supportive of your diagnosis?
My employer is supportive of my diagnose. I will say that some education and understanding of my rights as an individual with a disability comes into play with that support. Many people don’t self-identify as a person with a disability when the disability is unapparent. I do self-identify and belong to a fantastic workplace group- DERG- Disability Employee Resource Group- open to all employees with a disability or wishing to learn more about ways to support the disability community. Rush University sponsors the DERG. Workplace accommodation from all employers over that last 10 years have been valuable in allowing me to continue working in my profession.
Were you already a nurse when you were diagnosed with lupus? (if not, did your lupus diagnosis encourage you to become a nurse?)
I was already a Registered Nurse for 14 years when my official diagnose of lupus was made.
What is a Family Nurse Practitioner?
A Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), that is able to diagnose, treat, and provide comprehensive healthcare for all ages across the lifespan. FNP’s can serve as a primary care providers.
Why did you want to become a Family Nurse Practitioner?
I want to be able to practice and continue nursing in a different way. I have a lot to offer. I want to be in a position to be a change agent. I don’t talk too much about what I want to do, I just do it. One day you just look up and its done!
Do you think your lupus diagnosis will impact your education? If so, how?
I am sure Lupus will cause some situations that will require accommodations for school. I always hope I don’t flare up, but the reality is I will. This definitely affects me working, going to school and doing anything. May cause assignments to be delayed, I may miss clinical time due to flares, but I am determined to see it through, God willing. So far, I stay a little bit ahead so when the flare happens, I’m able to stay on track- so far I have a solid perfect “A” average- now if that slips down- it most likely will be lupus related.
How did you find the Lupus Society of Illinois (LSI)?
My dear friend and colleague Dr. Meenakshi Jolly lead me to LSI in 2017- I attended an educational event at Rush to learn more about lupus. It was a combined joint effort education event between LSI and Rush University.
How has the LSI helped you cope with lupus?
One big way LSI has helped me cope with lupus is by giving me the opportunity and platform to help others with lupus. By doing that I focus less on how I’m feeling, the pain I’m having, and I have been able to turn a horrible thing called lupus into a lot of positive work. This keeps me out of depression, hopelessness and feeling like lupus has robbed me. Facilitating lupus support groups through LSI also gives me the emotional support I need to keep fighting every day.
What would you want the world to know about lupus?
I would want the world to know Lupus- what it is and how it affects millions of people every day. I want people to know about the health disparities that exist with lupus, the need for more community resources, and that lupus is not something you can catch.
The why is- why not! When we are aware, educated, and active, together we have more voices and more power to bring about real change.