Josie Pearce: Finding Acceptance and Support
Josie Pearce takes her studies very seriously, earning a perfect 5.0 grade average. “I'm not too much of an after-school fun person,” she notes. “I stick to my homework and that's about it.”
But Josie is not all work and no play. “I really like to listen to pop music. I like country a lot even though a lotta people don't like it.” You might see Josie stomping to the music at California’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival or the Stagecoach Country Music Festival.
Like many people with lupus, Jose struggled with debilitating symptoms for many months before she obtained a diagnosis. “I was diagnosed in October of 2013 at age 15. It took doctors about nine months to diagnose me. I had gone to several different doctors and they all thought I was a hypochondriac because I would come in with a laundry list of things wrong with me.”
Jose says she felt vindicated after doctors were able to tell her she had a real disease, that it had a name. “It was really relieving when I got a diagnosis and I realized that I wasn't exaggerating about my symptoms, that I actually had something wrong with me.”
People who are newly diagnosed with lupus often have many questions and look to others with the disease who understand what they are going through.
“My message for other teens with lupus is to just keep fighting.
“The Lupus Foundation of America has provided me with a support group of teenage girls in my area,” said Josie. “I've been able to reach out to a lot of them. We've been able to hang out and talk and just relate our struggles to each other-- because we know what it's like to be a young teenage girl who should be having so much fun during their teenage years but you're dealing with a disease that no one else understands.”
With her newly found ‘lupus warriors’ Josie set out to raise money and help bring greater awareness and understanding to lupus.
“I went to the Los Angeles Walk to End Lupus Now event this past September,” she says with pride. “And it was extremely fun. I had my own team, ‘Josie Power.’ All of my friends were there and my family. Collectively we raised over $400 for the organization which was really great for me because I'd never done anything like this before.”
Despite living with lupus for five years now, Josie has big career ambitions. “I really want to be an international tax attorney. I know that sounds extremely crazy. But it combines my passions of math, international relations and the fact that I wanted to be a lawyer since fifth grade,” she said with a big grin. “And I'm extremely excited for doing that in my future.”
She has some encouraging words for young people who may be confused about their future – stay positive. “My message for other teens with lupus is to just keep fighting. It's not that bad-- when it really comes down to it. We can definitely bring support from our family and our friends and each other. And it's okay in the end because we're gonna grow old and we're gonna have great lives.”