When I was diagnosed with Lupus, aged 16, my life changed in every way. But the biggest blow was that I may never be able to go on holiday again.
Lupus is an auto-immune illness: that means your immune system attacks the good stuff in your body (bones, muscle, tissue and organs) instead of the bad. It’s triggered by heat and sunlight, meaning I could kiss goodbye to my yearly jaunts to Spain.
I loved travelling as a teen, but my last few holidays before diagnosis were fraught with heat stroke and sickness. I couldn’t suffer through something so bad just for a few days on a sun lounger, no matter how beautiful the backdrop.
Growing up I didn’t have a lot of friends and when I became sicker I had even fewer, but one constant was always my sister. With just two years between us she was a ready-made best friend. Someone I had endless in jokes with and fought over things that had happened 20 years ago. It also meant that when she got engaged, I was of course her choice for Maid of Honour.
So when my sister announced that, for her hen party, she wanted her and the bridesmaids to go on a five-day jolly to Tenerife, I was terrified.
It’d been over a decade since my life changed, but in that time I had gotten so much better. I was barely on any medication and could drink and exercise. I’d even started working in the field I loved. Though I was scared my illness would come back to kick my arse, I said yes.
We chose March as its time of year when the weather wouldn’t be completely unbearable. From October to March the weather is between 15 and 25 on average.
Leading up to the trip I did the normal things everyone does, but in excess. I bought factor 50 sun cream, got the most comprehensive travel insurance possible and invested in a hat and plenty of t-shirts to cover up.
The night before the flight I barely slept. I was nervous to fly for the first time in 13 years, and when I got to the airport I was a bag of nerves. I cried on take off and landing.
And then I stepped off the plane. Almost fortunately, Spain was getting the tail end of The Beast From The East so there was a lovely breeze all week and it never got too hot. Possibly the best thing I’ve ever invested in was a £4 patterned sarong, I wore it as a dress, shawl and coat nearly all week when I needed a cover up and a breather from the heat without having to wear heavy t-shirts. I also made sure I had a hat, and was never out too long in the midday sun.
The holiday was absolutely amazing. We lounged around drinking cocktails most days, me under my trusty parasol, but I also got to explore the island, find some lovely shops and even spend the day at a water park.
I’m not gonna lie, I was exhausted when I got home and took it very easy all holiday — but it was beyond worth it.
If you have an illness like Lupus, I’d recommend booking in the off season (October-April) as it’s a bit cooler and not as busy but still fun. Drink water, cover up and don’t push yourself too hard. But the biggest piece of advice I can give is make sure you go on holiday with someone you trust. The holiday was only so great because I was never pushed to drink too much or forced to do anything I didn’t want to. The girls always made sure I had enough water and sun cream and never minded that I had to take breaks or go to bed early.