photo: Corbis

Selena Gomez publicly confirmed why she took a much needed break from the spotlight two years ago — which hopefully shuts down the Internet trolls for spreading rumors about her being in rehab for substance abuse. The 23-year-old former Disney star was diagnosed with lupus, and after undergoing serious treatment is now talking openly about the autoimmune disease. 

“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 said to Billboard. “I wanted so badly to say, ‘You guys have no idea. I’m in chemotherapy. You’re assholes.' I locked myself away until I was confident and comfortable again.”

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To add salt to the wound, whenever she was in the public eye she was fiercely body-shamed for her slight weight gain, and folks would confront her, saying "You're fat!" at the airport. Little did they know that what she was going through since lupus causes facial swelling, extreme fatigue, headaches, and joint pain among other symptoms. 

There are some misconceptions about lupus — which disproportionately affects minority women — and just because Gomez received chemotherapy for it doesn't mean it has any connection to cancer. Only some turn to chemotherapy when steroids have been unable to bring the lupus symptoms under control. But what is it exactly?

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that pretty much causes your body to attack itself because it cannot tell the difference between foreign invaders (think bacteria, viruses, and germs) and your body’s healthy tissues, which then creates auto-antibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue, according to the Lupus Foundation of America. These nasty autoantibodies cause inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body sporadically and these symptoms can last from weeks to years.

Women, especially Latinas, between the ages of 18 and 44 have a higher risk of developing lupus than men, children, and teenagers — two to three times more due to genetics. The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that an estimated 1.5 million Americans and at least 5 million people worldwide are living with lupus.

But Gomez hasn't let lupus define her or break her down. In fact, she's used her battle and the haters as fuel for her new album Revival, which debuts Oct. 9. "I'm so f---ing nice to everybody, and everyone is so vile to me. I’ve been working since I was 7. I’ve been a UNICEF ambassador since I was 17. It’s so disappointing that I’ve become a tabloid story," Gomez said to Billboard. "The hate motivated me."

The moral of the story — and hopefully a message to haters everywhere — take a step back and be kind because you never know what battles people are fighting. 

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