Chaufa’s Style: Living a Vibrant Life with Lupus

“One of the greatest things I have learned in the last few years is to show yourself the same level of compassion, understanding, and forgiveness that you show to friends, family, or strangers.”

Chaufa is continuously inspired to keep values of gratitude, happiness, and courage in her heart. She attributes her emotional strength to her health challenges over the years, which have taught her a tremendous amount about resilience.

Since age 13, Chaufa has lived with an autoimmune disease called Lupus (SLE), a chronic condition where one’s immune system can mistakenly attack healthy tissues and organs. SONY DSC

Over the years, the complications of her medical symptoms, combined with treatment side effects, often left Chaufa feeling physically and emotionally drained. As her own “toughest critic”, she was unhappy with her situation and constantly fought against her body’s signals. She did not want to slow down or rest.

“I saw my Lupus as a weakness, and I felt as though I had to work twice as hard as others to prove that I could do anything that a ‘normal’, healthy person was capable of,” Chaufa recalled.

“I pushed myself to the point of a mental breakdown. I was overworked and completely exhausted. I was ignoring all the signs that my body was telling me, just for an ego-boost. At that point, I learned that allowing myself to be vulnerable and appreciate moments of weakness were actually the greatest indicators of strength, humility, and wisdom.”

Chaufa shared that within the past few years, she placed her focus on personal growth, with the goal of achieving internal peace and happiness. This has led to pursuing a university degree in Psychology, finding a work opportunity that connects her passions of meeting new people and exploring new foods, and using fashion as a platform to express herself.

Chaufa smiled warmly as she spoke of the role fashion has played in managing her illness:

“I have always believed that fashion and style can affect our outlook on a specific day and affect our lives in general. Style encourages me to have a positive outlook, starting from the exterior and work its way inwards. It’s almost therapeutic in a way.”

She describes her style as “eclectic” and reflective of her mood. The majority of her wardrobe consists of simple, effortless, comfortable pieces that are all found in local thrift stores.

“I also like to experiment with bold colours and prints in my closet; my favourites are animal prints, floral patterns, and lace.”

Chaufa’s friends know her as the ‘romper queen’ since she loves to wear jumpsuits. In fact, she owns twenty of them.

“They are each unique and versatile. And, whether I’m going for a simple, causal look or something more dressed up, I have one for every occasion and always feel comfortable,” she explained.

Many of the clothes that Chaufa owns carry sentimental value.

“My black silk jumpsuit,” she said, gesturing to her outfit, “was a thrift store find, and my Michael Kors bag was also purchased second hand at Front & Co. on Main Street in Vancouver. The rings and earrings I’m wearing are from my parents, and I’ve had them since I was sixteen.”

As we wrapped up our conversation, Chaufa shared that she aspires to continue sharing her experiences of personal growth and living with Lupus on her blog, The Natural Pursuits.

Quick Questions with Chaufa

What has made you feel better emotionally along this journey?

As cheesy as it sounds, I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. During my darkest periods, I had to constantly remind myself that there was more to all of my suffering. I was so wrapped up in my own world and forgot to step back and take another perspective. I continuously remind myself that there will always be someone in a better or worse position than me, and that I have a lot to be thankful for.

Where do people stumble with their language or understanding about your Lupus? What changes would you like to see?

I think there is a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to invisible illnesses. My Lupus may not be visible, but this does not undermine the severity of the disease. It does not discount the amount of time I have spent in hospitals or doctors’ offices. It does not disregard the number of blood tests, x-rays, and ultrasounds I’ve had, or the number of times I’ve digested bad news, or the number of days where I have wallowed in bed.

My Lupus may not be physically visible, but I have certainly endured challenges and made sacrifices for my health. I would like people to be more open-minded and to not take things just at face value. Yes, I go to school and work everyday with a smile on my face, but this does not mean life comes easy for me.

In consideration of the challenges you have faced, what are you proudest of?

I am most proud of my growth and progress over the last few years. I have developed my own understanding of strength, and that is: it’s okay to not be okay. I don’t need to have it together all the time. Before, when I was on the verge of a Lupus flare-up (meaning the disease would become active), I would just push myself harder and tell myself that it was a test of my character and perseverance. In reality, it only ended up hurting me and setting my health back further. I have had to learn that the hard way, but now I can appreciate those instances when I can see past my ego and self-pride and do what is right for me in that very moment.

Who or what are you inspired by? 

I am most inspired by my friends and family. They have shown me so much love and support. I remember the day I shared my first blog post about living with Lupus. I was literally shaking as I uploaded the post. I was so nervous to see the response I would receive from everyone, or even worse, that I would get no response. I remember sitting there afterwards, crying and feeling this huge weight off of my shoulders. I had finally let my walls down and let people in. I hid everything to do with my Lupus from everyone for ten years, and I got to a breaking point. I just couldn’t pretend that I had it all together anymore when I felt like I was falling apart at the seams. The days following my initial post consisted of some of the highest and greatest moments of my life. The outpour of love, compassion, support, and encouragement I received from everyone was something I did not anticipate. I cried even more tears than I thought possible – but for the first time, in a long time, they were tears of joy.

What are you grateful for in this moment?

I am grateful for the moments I have during the day when I can just be with my thoughts. Those moments are when I feel most at peace and can appreciate everything around me. Relishing in my own calm was not something I ever enjoyed before. I am the happiest I have been in a very long time and for that I am sincerely grateful.

Thank you to Chaufa for bravely and boldly speaking about her personal experiences of living a vibrant life with Lupus!