While Tichina Arnold is known for numerous hit shows such as “Martin”, “Happily Divorced”, “Everybody Hates Chris” and the lead role in her latest series “The Neighborhood” from CBS, she has mostly looked after her younger sister Zenay . The younger Arnold was diagnosed with lupus and six other autoimmune diseases at the age of 32.
Lupus is a mysterious disease that can cause a variety of symptoms, from a typical butterfly-shaped rash on the cheeks and nose to fatigue, muscle and joint pain. It is a chronic disease that occurs without warning, is difficult to diagnose, and cannot be cured. There are approximately 1.5 million people with lupus in the United States, and 99% of them are women. Like Zenay, one in three people with lupus has multiple autoimmune diseases. Lupus is also three times more common in African American women than in Caucasian women.
Following Zenay’s diagnosis, the close sisters formed the We Win Foundation, a nonprofit that provides much-needed support for people with lupus by raising awareness, providing advice and running fundraisers. The organization also provides financial and food aid to people with lupus who are in need.
Healthy women spoke to the dynamic duo about how the debilitating disease has affected their lives.
Not to be heard
Tachina and Zenay Arnold, courtesy of Queens Light Productions, LLC
As a young girl growing up in the Arnold household in Queens, New York, Tichina was little aware of her younger sister’s medical problems, which included rashes, sun allergies, and fatigue. “We always thought it was dramatic! We have different personalities,” she said.
But Tichina noticed Zenay’s severe migraine headaches and excessively painful menstrual cycles.
“I remember my mom and I were sitting in the living room and watching TV. Zenay came down and said, ‘Mom, I have cramps.’ And we said to her, this is okay, you will get it over with! Welcome to a life full of cramps! “And she sat there for a moment, but then passed out. I said,” Really ?! You are going to be so dramatic !? “
Without a diagnosis it was impossible to tell what Zenay was dealing with.
“There were many other signs, too, but we didn’t know what it was,” said Tichina. “She wasn’t diagnosed. You know what it was like back then with black families living from paycheck to paycheck. It’s usually like, ‘Give her Robitussin and keep it moving!'”
Worsening of symptoms
As Zenay got older, she experienced incredible exhaustion, painful joints, and inflammation so bad that she couldn’t even move her hands well enough to pull her hair into a bun. But her resilience prevented Tichina from fully realizing the extent of what was happening.
“We’re tough cookies,” Tichina explained. “We come from a generation of strong women who, if something comes up, you … handle it! Zenay never wore her illness on her sleeve. I had seen that she was 80% in pain and was still pushing through.”
Then a crucial moment at the airport changed everything.
“Zenay’s health situation wasn’t real to me until one day we were out. We went through the x-ray machine and I called to her to hurry up. I heard her say, ‘I can’t take my shoes off.’ I will never forget that feeling of worry and fear. I had to go back and take off her shoes for her. It literally shocked me – to be okay one minute and incapacitated the next – that’s pretty insane. ”
Live in denial
During those years, Zenay admitted that she lived “in denial” and worked 100 hours a week as a paralegal.
“I [attributed] all the pain I felt to stress, “said Zenay.” And then one day all the symptoms manifested; I woke up and couldn’t move. I had to be taken to the hospital. They did all of these tests and found that I had six autoimmune diseases: rheumatoid arthritis, Raynaud’s disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, hyperlipidemia, mixed tissue disease, and scleroderma – and I was told I was ‘borderline lupus’. “Within six weeks, in 2004, they were telling her she had full blown lupus.
Change your life
Zenay was severely affected by lupus and its autoimmune diseases. “The pain can go from my feet to my hands and then to my whole body. It really varies with each day, some days are milder than others.” To combat her lupus flares, she uses a combination of Western and Eastern medicine / alternative treatments, including turmeric, lemon, and autoimmune herbs in addition to prescribed medications. “My best friend is a hot water bottle!”
While Zenay was in a New York hospital, Tichina worked in Los Angeles and lived with her new baby, Alijah.
“I would get all the information over the phone with the doctors. I knew it was bad. Zenay neglected to deal with what was going on. She thought they were just going to give her medication and that was it. They hope that it is so. ” not be as bad as it is. “
Since her mother wanted to move across the country to take care of Alijah, Tichina knew it was time for Zenay to come too. “I really don’t think she would have survived if she had stayed that way [cold] Climate.”
Zenay now lives in California, works with Tichina, and has wondered how much their illnesses have in some ways blessed the Arnold sisters.
“Before I was diagnosed, Tichina and I lived separately. I had no plans to move to California. I really believe that my illnesses and Alijah’s birth brought my sister and me together,” Zenay said.
“And now, years later, Tichina and I are working together. I’m her manager and we have our own production company and several writing projects. We are literally each other’s best friends.”
Tichina is also deeply moved by Zenay’s health experience and wants to do everything to make her feel good.
“We did so much research to find out how best to deal with what was going on. The family has all stepped on their plates to deal with their illness … driving Zenay to medical appointments, changing clothes, you Give medication and put her to bed … whatever we can wear so she doesn’t have to, “Tichina said.
We win the foundation
While the Arnold sisters have a strong family of support, not everyone is so happy. For this reason, Tichina and Zenay founded the We Win Foundation.
“Our urgent goal is to provide comfort, hope and information to the uninformed and underserved people suffering from lupus,” said Tichina. “There are literally people dying from this disease. We just want to make sure we practice what we preach and share what we have learned and been through. It is definitely not an easy path.”
One of her foundation’s initiatives is The Selfish Project, an online program that teaches women with autoimmune diseases how to practice self-care and take time to rejuvenate and relieve stress.
“We want women to know that they are not alone,” enthused Zenay. “No matter how hard, scary and lonely it gets, there is always someone to pray for you.”
Zenay seeks to be positive and gives hope to the many people she has helped. “I have an illness every day of the week! As my uncle says, we need a comedy with tragedy,” she said with a smile.
Lupus Foundation of America