Lupus does not attack kidneys in every case. Many lupers do not have any kidney problems. The first thing is to get your immune system under control and it sounds like your rheumy is trying. Secondly there are meds to help your kidneys. I have lupus nephritis and my kidneys are ok now although I do take an ace inhibitor to help them. As for controlling meds, each patient responds differently so there is no universal treatment that works for all. We are each an experiment in treatment to some extent but most cases are treatable.
I recommend that you also see a nephrologist and have him work with your rheumy.
As for diagnosing lupus, many patients go through a long period of time before it is diagnosed, sometimes years. This is very common because it is a difficult disease to diagnose in early stages and has a thousand faces.
Living a normal life? Good chance but lupus can be a difficult disease to treat for some. My advice is to be aggressive with your medical care and ask lots of questions of your doctors. Be you own advocate. If you are unsure or not doing well get a second opinion but make sure the doctor is experienced with lupus. Find a local support group if there is one near you. Your swelling is caused by your kidney problems and as your immune system is brought under control and if you take meds like an ace inhibitor those problems will go away. I have been in full remission for almost 8 years and off all controlling meds (not the ones for my kidney function) for 3 years. I still have arthritic problems but nothing like the first year but I am in my 70s so arthritis goes with the turf. And if you are wondering, old guys get lupus too.
Be an optimist...it is the attitude that will serve you best at this stage and coping long term with the disease.
MCTD (SLE Lupus, polymyositis, scleroderma). Diagnosed 2005. Kidney, liver, GI tract, dysphagia, raynauds, barretts esophagus, quadriplegic in 2005. Recovered and now active in downhill skiing, golf, hiking. Meds: amlodipine, benezapril, omeprazole, potassium, folic acid, vitamins, maxide.
Remain Optimistic and you can overcome.