From the Archives: Spring 2009 Issue of Lupus Now
My Rose Parade Experience
By Jessica Southern
My story begins when I was diagnosed with lupus in 2006. It was such a shock, but I figured God would take care of me. I believe my faith in Christ has a lot to do with how I am dealing with lupus.
When I was asked if I wanted to be on the Kaiser Rose Parade float, it was like, you want me to be on the float? So I said, “Yes!” and the fun began to happen.
Our first event was a “Family Fun Day,” where all the float riders were able to meet each other, the Rose Queen and her Princesses, and the families of Kaiser employees. My family and one of my best friends, Andie, went along to decorate the float. At the end of the day, I felt like a flower because the strawflowers kept falling on me and stuck in my hair. It was a long day, but enjoyable.
On the morning of New Year’s Day I was so excited, the big day was finally here, and I was going to be in the Rose Parade! My heart felt like it was going to burst. I remember thinking, “This is me, boarding the actual Kaiser float for the Rose Parade!” It was just so cool and unbelievable—definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
On the parade route, I saw Taylor and Vanessa (some friends from my high school Color Guard team). They were just screaming my name, and that was probably one of the best moments on the float. I didn’t see my parents, but they said that they saw me. My grandma was able to come, which was totally awesome. Along the parade route, a few audience members were shouting out to us, yelling, “Survivors” or “Fighters” because they believed in us and knew we all had serious medical conditions.
The next few days after the parade I felt like a superstar. I was in the newspaper with a big picture. At church, all my friends saw a clip of me on the float and were so proud. It is nice knowing that so many people care about me.
I know my family loves me and supports me through thick and thin. Lupus is definitely thick, but they have helped me overcome it. My family gives me the strength to carry on.
P.S. From Deanna Southern, Jessica’s mom:
There are some things left out of Jessica’s story. She did not share what it cost her personally to be in the Rose Parade. She has known about her lupus for a year and a half, but very few people know that she has it. She didn’t want others to think of her differently. However, with her being in the Rose Parade she decided she is willing to share her story with whomever it might help. Lupus has affected her in many ways, but will never dominate her love for God, family, and friends. She is a very special girl who has an inner strength and peace that is amazing. Her sweet spirit touches all who meet her.