How One Woman Living With Lupus Uses Board Games As Therapy

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We’re counting down the days  International Tabletop Day 2018, happening this year on April 28th! As we get closer to the big day, we’ll be looking at the gamut of tabletop gaming, from the stories of the games we play to remarkable people who love them. Be sure to join in on the fun on April 28th on our official  ITTD Twitch Stream, hosted by Ivan van Norman and donate to  charity:water, the worthy cause we’re supporting this year.

For the last three years, Lexy Kendrick lived with chronic pain in her hips and legs. She spent entire days asleep and fought off pneumonia three times. Doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her until a round of blood work and x-rays at the end of last year.

She had lupus.

It was a bittersweet day for Kendrick. While devastated by the news that she had an incurable disease, she found solace in the fact that she now knew what’d been causing her so much pain. “I cried mainly out of relief,” she said, “because I knew I could get treatment for this.”

Lupus is a disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack healthy organs and tissue, according to the Mayo Clinic. It’s difficult to diagnose because its symptoms mimic so many other illnesses and ailments, but with proper treatment, most people with lupus can expect to live a normal lifespan.

After her diagnosis, Kendrick had to cut down her shifts as a veterinary assistant and her physical activity was extremely limited. She found herself at home, spending days in bed due to her illness. “It was depressing. I’d go on social media and see people posting about climbing mountains and stuff,” she said. “I’m 22 years old and I was like an old lady.”

That’s when she turned to board games.


Her boyfriend had a copy of Fallout, a board game based on the popular video game. They enjoyed it so much that they sought out other tabletop titles. They soon stumbled upon a local game night, where Kendrick played gateway games like Ticket to Ride and Potion Explosion, which she brought home to her family.

“With how lupus has affected me, I didn’t know how to spend time with my family. I couldn’t do the things we did before,” she said. “But now we play games together and they’re hooked. I spend more time with my family than I did before and it’s easier to talk to them about my condition.”

This support from her family and friends has helped Kendrick as she deals with the daily realities of lupus, from regular doses of medication to the chronic pain.

“Sometimes I can’t get up and around the way I want to. That makes things hard,” she said. “You basically have a limited amount of energy each day. You can have all of these plans, but once that energy’s gone, that’s it.”

Along with the physical and mental toll lupus has taken on her, Kendrick has also faced the stereotypes associated with the disease. Because there aren’t any outward symptoms, people mistakenly believe that nothing’s wrong with her.

“I used to get really mad and angry about people not sympathizing with me,” she said, “but now I know it’s a lack of understanding.”

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With her increased knowledge of the disease as well as an improved diet and regular medical appointments, Kendrick maintains a positive attitude. She also recognizes the therapeutic role that board games have played in her life.

“There’s something called ‘lupus fog,’ where you start forgetting things and talking slower,” she explained. “Games like Terraforming Mars help me remember things and keep me mentally sharp. I don’t have to spend days asleep because there’s nothing else I can do.

“Board games are more than entertainment for me,” she said, “and they’re a welcome escape from not being able to do much.”

Do you know anyone using board games as therapy? Tell us in the comments! And be sure to  join us on April 28th on Twitch for our  International Tabletop Day stream hosted by Ivan van Norman, and help us support  charity:water to  raise money for a project to get water to a community of people who currently lack access to clean water.


Featured Image Credit: Ruel Gaviola

Image Credits: Lexy Kendrick, Ruel Gaviola

Ruel Gaviola is a writer based in Southern California. He loves board games, books, cooking, traveling, Star Wars, and date nights with his wife. He reviews games and reports news for  iSlaytheDragon, podcasts about games on The Five By, and his name rhymes with Superman’s Kryptonian name. Follow him on  Twitter and read his blog  here.

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