“2004 and 2007. Years that were life altering but have led me to my new normal. They are the years I was diagnosed with lupus and pulmonary hypertension (PH) respectively.

“Hello, my name is Bernadette Bonifacio and I’m a Lupus Warrior and PHighter. Having two chronic conditions has its good, bad, and everything in between — but I’m always up for the challenge. Small victories matter!

“Looking at me, one would assume I’m able bodied. Yet that is not the case. PH is life threatening and can be debilitating. Specialty pharmacies are a part of my life. Lab tests are done monthly. And vital doctor visits with rheumatologists and cardiologists rotate every three to four months. I’m very grateful to my medical team. Their continued support and encouragement have helped me immensely. Thank you, University of California San Francisco (UCSF)!

“After being diagnosed, I had to adjust my lifestyle to accommodate my needs. I always go at my own pace. Although it’s easy to compare yourself to someone else, it’s important to know your limits. Some days can be tougher than others due to photosensitivity, fatigue, memory fog and joint pain, but I always find a way to power through it all. Rest and recovery are at the top of my list each day as the week goes on! I consider myself the queen of naps.

“My proudest accomplishment as a lupus and PH patient was graduating college in 2013 from University of California Davis. My path was very different, but with my determination and endless support from family, friends and peers, I was able to succeed. I’m thankful that I’m able to work part time, gain new experiences and have that work/life balance. My hope for the future is to pursue a degree in higher education.

“I’ve met so many fellow Lupus Warriors and PHighters on this journey. Their resiliency is inspiring! I find myself looking to those people when I’m not having such a great day. Those connections are comforting.

“But there are so many words that are a part of my story: isolation, hope, reflection, determination, acceptance, fear, anxiety, sadness, grief, and loss. All these feelings and emotions put life into perspective. I remind myself that each day is a gift and I do my best to remain present.

“Lupus and PH are a part of me now. I’m so much more than my conditions. I’m a daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, friend, etc. I also enjoy watching sporting events, attending concerts, photography, blogging and watching movies. I like to have fun despite my circumstances!

“I will continue to advocate for lupus and PH. Visibility and awareness for both conditions are so important! I won’t give up.

“Lastly, I remember my friends Sean Wyman, Serena Lawrence and Sarah Mae Ann Rosales-Paras. They all taught and helped me with so much along the way. This piece is in memory of them.”

Bernadette Bonifacio