Gomez shocked fans in Australia, Japan and Southeast Asia by abruptly canceling 11 tour stops.
At the time, her management would only say that she was suffering from “exhaustion,” a catch-all excuse often used to mask the real reasons for an artist breakdown. That led to widespread tabloid speculation that she was suffering from drug addiction, or worse.
Although her latest disclosure about her illness is being described as a “bombshell,” by a host of entertainment sites, it was actually widely reported at the time that lupus may have been the reason for her tour cancellation.
So her latest revelation is no real surprise. What is eye-opening is her claim that she underwent chemotherapy to treat her affliction.
“I was diagnosed with lupus, and I’ve been through chemotherapy. That’s what my break was really about. I could’ve had a stroke,” Gomez tells Billboard magazine.
The comment immediately drew comparisons with cancer sufferers and touched off an outpouring of sympathy for the star. But the treatments aren’t even close to being the same, according to medical references.
While chemotherapy drugs are sometimes used to treat lupus, they are nowhere near as potent as cancer chemotherapy drugs, which produce so many debilitating side-effects.
In addition, chemotherapy drugs are only used to treat severe cases of lupus, a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body, from skin and joints to vital organs like your liver, kidneys and lungs, according to the Lupus Foundation of America.
The disease is believed to have genetic origins and strikes mostly women between the ages of 15 and 44. Oddly, in all her years of performing as a Disney teen star Gomez never mentioned the affliction, although symptoms can come and go and vary in severity.
Treatment for lupus depends on the symptoms and severity, according to the Mayo Clinic.
In mild cases, over-the-counter drugs like Aleve, Advil, Motrin and similar pain reducers are used to relieve the pain, swelling and fever associated with lupus. Sometimes anti-malarial drugs, such as Plaquenil, are also used to control symptoms, according to the clinic.
Lupus and Chemotherapy
One Sufferer’s Story
After I was diagnosed, I eventually lost eighty percent of my hair and bought a wig to feel semi normal. The constant steroids caused weight gain, and the unfortunate “moon face.” I faced pain every day of my life while my numerous doctors tried different cocktails to tame my flares. I tried chemotherapies like methotrexate and even monthly doses of Cytoxan. I faced the fact that these treatments could leave me infertile. I became a regular at the emergency room because of my constant immunosuppressed state. I was a prime target for any and every infection. About two years ago, I felt so healthy and symptom free, I decided to stop all of my medications. It was smooth sailing until our three day drive back home. The stress of driving for several hours, a broken down car and other factors caused a huge flare up of my Lupus. My kidneys suddenly began to fail and I had to start dialysis right away. There was talk of going on the transplant list if my kidneys did not respond to the dialysis. I was thrown into this treatment with such an uncertain fate, I lived in constant fear. I was given two rounds of Rituxan during this hospital stay to calm my immune system. After sitting in that chair, three days a week for two months, my kidneys started to respond. I am currently healthy again, with normally functioning kidneys and taking my medications each and every day. My Lupus has taught me great strength and resilience, and I would not be the strong lady I am today without this disease.
In more serious cases, Corticosteroids and drugs that suppress the immune system are used. These can generate side effects from weight gain, diabetes and high blood pressure to liver damage and an increased risk of cancer.
Among the so-called immunosuppressants are three drugs commonly used to treat cancer. Methotrexate is most widely used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, a symptom of lupus.
A more powerful drug, azathioprine, is used to suppress an abnormal immune response in patients with more severe lupus. It’s been linked to cancer of the lymph nodes.
The third drug, cyclophosphamide is the most powerful and most toxic of all. It’s used to treat the most aggressive and dangerous rheumatic diseases, such as severe lupus. The side-effects include bladder damage, cancer of the bladder, hair loss and sterility, according to WebMD.
What’s odd about Selena’s condition is her behavior after she cancelled her tour.
Only days later, she partied hard in Las Vegas to mark the premiere of Britney Spears residency at the Planet Hollywood Casino. At the time, she showed no signs of lupus, or exhaustion.
In January last year, Selena checked into the Dawn at the Meadows rehab center in Arizona, “but not for substance abuse,” her rep said at the time.
The reason remained a mystery although the facility boasts that its “reputation is unmatched in the treatment of sexual disorders.”
The facility is not a medical hospital. It treats patients for codependency, depression, love addictions, love avoidance, eating disorders and panic and anxiety disorders, as well as drug addiction.
Whatever her reason for being there, she check out after two weeks into a six-week program over staff objections.
Since then, she has exhibited some weight gain, but has kept up a busy schedule of appearances and fashion commitments, not to mention partying with abandon.
Lupus is a serious affliction. At least 1.5 million Americans suffer from it and 16,000 new cases are diagnosed every year, according to the Lupus Foundation.
Selena owes it not only to the public, but also to all lupus sufferers, to be more candid about her affliction and her treatment.
The last thing she should want is to give false hope to sufferers or cause them to seek treatment with chemotherapy drugs that have potentially dangerous side-effects.
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