First came weakness, then swollen joints, then the prognosis. When you’re given four years to live, your options are limited. Pump your body with medication in a desperate bid to suppress the symptoms, or give up. Nirupa Jugmohan did neither. When she was diagnosed with Lupus, she rejected the suggested treatment because of the side effects. She battled ahead, initially surpassing the four-year mark. But 10 years later, she was bedridden, weighing a mere 35 kilograms, unable even to hold a toothbrush. But the teacher and single mother was still not ready to give up. “I had this desire to live for the kids, and that’s why I had to conquer everything,” she says.
With nothing to lose, she went back to her roots. Despite a weak immune system and restricted movement, Jugmohan made her way to India under the care of her family. There she experienced the life-changing effects of ayurveda, the oldest form of natural treatment in the world. The herbs and plants did something doctors back home were not prepared for. Rather than suppressing the painful symptoms, they worked to eliminate the root cause. The pain began to ease and the flexibility in her fingers returned. She was able to walk and drive again. This wasn’t the end of her struggles, as a freak car accident last year left her with a fractured hip and head injury. But her frail figure belies the inner strength that pushes her to keep going.
The fingers that were once locked stiff now pick herbs from her own garden, which she uses at her Lupus support centre. Ayurvedic therapies may not be the answer to every medical ailment, but Jugmohan hopes to expose South Africans to holistic alternatives which may bring some relief where there is seemingly no other hope. “I don’t want people to be suffering the way I suffered,” she says.