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Lupus: A Systemic Transition Through Hula Hoop Dancing

Written By: Tomi Lyn Jennings, Sep 4 2015 02:08AM

My name is Tomi, and I have a story to tell…

Lupus Erythematosus hula hoop dance
Tomi Lyn Jennings

During the spring of 2012 I found myself feeling lost, sick, vulnerable, and hopeless. I felt as if I was a ghost, moving around unnoticed and irrelevant. My life had become a battle against a debilitating disease: Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, or SLE. SLE is a disease that causes conditions that can induce intense pain, swelling, and severe bruising such as rheumatoid arthritis, severe anemia, epilepsy, photo sensitivity, skin lesions, and fibromyalgia. I had been fighting SLE since 2007 with no positive results, and the disease had caused me to enter a place of emotional forfeiture . After going through cytoxin chemotherapy and having the therapy fail to bring my immune system under control, my body missed the mark for remission. I gave up. I quit taking medication, I refused further doctor appointments; I lost faith in life.

Out of nowhere, a neighbor stopped over. Being completely inebriated at the time, the only content I remember of our chat was an invitation to an overnight music festival. Usually my being depressed, convinced that I was dying, and my constant over consumption of alcohol, would have me decline. But fate stepped in; my mouth formed the words as my vocals spat out “Yes, why the hell not?”.

Days later I found myself in an open field surrounded by trees, a homemade (and what seemed to be an almost portable) stage with a band setting up. I felt immediate comfort knowing loud, live rock music would soon be stimulating my ears. In the following moments I began to really soak up my surroundings. I noticed there were a few ladies and even a couple of gents hula hooping! Hoops were laying about all over; there were tiny hoops, skinny hoops, fat hoops, enormous seven foot hoops, even square hoops! I was fascinated, almost as if a “love at first sight” or “out of body experience” had happened. Memories and emotions from my childhood flooded my mind, reminding me of the time before I was sick. Before I was broken. Before I was an alcoholic.

As fast as I fell in love, I just as quickly talked myself right out of my first, true instinct: to grab a hula hoop and hoop ’til I couldn’t hoop no more! Instead, I was telling myself “it’s going to hurt you, dummy”, “Hula hooping is going to cause my joints to hurt” and “Don’t do it, Tomi. You’re going to feel it for days”. My negativity, self doubt, and fear kept me from picking up a hula hoop until early Sunday morning, the last day of the festival. On that glorious Sunday morning the band was rockin’, and I picked up a 7 foot, 3/4 id PE Hoop. My life was changed. Literally my perspective changed, my mentality made an evolutionary shift! My hope and faith returned to me, and for the first time in a long time I felt empowered.

The music was magical, the rhythm followed my body’s melody and the drums brought out the lyrics of my spirit. My toes motivated my ankles to make my legs to start rolling my hips, my body forcing the movement of this simple, large, elegant circle. Going round and round slightly massaged every one of my organs, the hula hoop rolled over my kidneys and around my spleen, folding my belly almost intuitively, making me feel the control my rib cage had to offer. Hooping gripped my soul. I found myself again while losing myself within; it was a systematically perfect moment in a moment that took place because of a Hula Hoop and good tunes.

I’ve always been into dancing, but adding the hula hoop stirred a whole new passion in me and sparked a different kind of flame. My entire being became involved with the incredible, yet so simple circle. Instantly restoring meaning to my life; something I hadn’t even been trying to find. Picking up a hula hoop that morning broke down mental and emotional barriers; the same ones that allowed me to whither away in a bottle in my tiny, dark, empty apartment. My God and I made peace that morning. I had an epiphany while Hula Hooping to that Sublime cover band, and my life literally began a complete turn around.

Just as Lupus tries to systematically take over my body, ever since the first day I twirled with the Love of my Life, hula hooping has been systemically morphing my mind, my body, and my health. However, most importantly of all, I have gained back my sense of self worth. This is my systemic transition by way of hula hoop dancing, and this is just the beginning!!