Fall 2010 - Tiffany Marie Peterson
Before January of 2010, Tiffany Marie Peterson had never heard of lupus. Then, she was diagnosed with the disease. Now, this 24-year old New Yorker is on a mission to raise lupus awareness.
Tiffany suffered with severe joint pain for years, but dismissed it as minor arthritis.
This past January though, her symptoms became much worse. “One morning I tried to lift my head to get up and I couldn’t do it,” she remembers.
Diagnosed by an internist with rheumatoid arthritis, Tiffany spent the entire month bedridden in excruciating pain. “Each day was such a struggle for me, I felt utterly alone.” Medication didn’t help, and Tiffany’s symptoms were getting worse. Finally she went to see a rheumatologist who ran tests.
“She told me I didn’t have rheumatoid arthritis, she said I have lupus.” Tiffany’s doctor prescribed a high dose of steroids, and a week later she began to feel better. “I started to focus on positive thinking and ways that I could live with lupus and make the best of it,” she says.
Determined to learn all she could about lupus, Tiffany went to the Internet. That’s where she found the Lupus Foundation of America’s Walk For Lupus Now®. She decided to walk not just for herself, but for all people living with lupus who couldn’t walk. She formed a team called Friends Against Lupus, and created a Facebook page to keep everyone up-to-date on the team’s progress.
“I didn’t know how successful I would be, given the fact that I only had a month to make a team and raise money but it was extremely, extremely, successful and I was really happy about that.” Friends Against Lupus raised over $500, and won a top fundraising award from the Lupus Foundation of America. Tiffany, though, was just getting started. “I realized I wanted to do more.”
In April, Tiffany held her first lupus awareness bake sale, where she handed out pamphlets about lupus with the cupcakes. Since then, the bake sales have evolved, and at least twice a month, Tiffany spends her weekend handing out lupus information, the LFA’s purple wristbands, and cupcakes in locations around New York City. She brings her sister along to paint faces, and raises money to support lupus awareness.
“It’s the most exhilarating feeling,” she says. “Each time I have an event, I feel like it’s ‘un-prescribed medicine’; it’s just a boost of positive energy and I always have such a great time. I meet tons of people and it keeps me going. Even if I only talk to two or three people, it’s still two or three people who never knew about lupus the day before.”
Tiffany’s Friends Against Lupus Facebook page has grown, too. At last count the page had more than 2,700 fans. “It’s an informational site where people who are living with lupus, and their supporters, can share their stories,” she explains.
Tiffany also uses Twitter and her own personal blog (http://hersilverlining.blogspot.com) to spread the word. “I’ve realized that social networking reaches a larger mass of people. The advantage of using the Internet is that it gets to reach other audiences, not just people in New York City.”
Before she was diagnosed with lupus, Tiffany thought she wanted to be a marine biologist. “I wanted to do something to change the world in an environmental way, but I wasn’t sure [what that would be],” she says. “Now, I finally feel like I know what I want to do for the rest of my life. I know where my passion is and this is it—I want to spread the word about lupus and increase awareness.”
Interested in fundraising and helping to raise lupus awareness? Check out the Lupus Foundation of America’s Page of Hope online fundraising tool at lupus.org/pagesofhope. It’s easy to customize and build your own Page of Hope, and it’s a great way to get family, friends and co-workers involved in raising awareness of lupus, and raising funds to find a cure.
You may also want to visit the LFA’s online store, at shop.lupus.org, where you can purchase the purple Someone You Know Has Lupus wristbands, fact sheets and other educational materials, a subscription to Lupus Now magazine, clothing with the LFA logo, and much more.