Living with Lupus: Tessa Shoemaker

Meet Tessa Shoemaker, the recipient of the Broolynn Faye Duvall Memorial Fund. Upon Brooklynn’s passing from lupus complication as a young college student, her mother sought out to create a fund in her daughter’s memory to help another young student with lupus.

“My name is Tessa Shoemaker and at age 9 my life changed forever! I was a Girl Scout and we just got back from a camping trip when I broke out in hives. I had them all over my arms and legs and my doctor kept saying that it was just an allergic reaction and that they would go away. It was a month before they finally did blood-work and sent me to All Children's Hospital to an Oncologist because my blood counts were so low.
For the next couple of months, I went back and forth to All Children's getting all sorts of testing done because they thought I had Leukemia. I went through a billion finger pricks and a painful bone marrow biopsy. Then one night I got palpitations so bad that you could literally lay a book on my chest and see it moving up in down. My heart had to work twice as hard to beat because I was so ill.
I was in the hospital for 3 days where I got a blood transfusion and my first Solumedrol treatment. At that point it was “lupus-like syndrome”. I wasn't given the official diagnosis of lupus until I was 10 years old after having a kidney biopsy that showed permanent scaring in my kidneys.

Growing up with lupus I've faced so many challenges! A year after being diagnosed with lupus I was diagnosed with Arthritis, at age 15 Fibromyalgia was thrown into the mix, I've had inflammation of the lining of my lungs and heart, at age 18 I was diagnosed with Asthma and Central Pain Syndrome, at age 20 I started having seizures, and I was recently diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis. Now 23 years old, I've been fighting lupus over half of my life. I've faced depression, fear, anxiety, and loneliness because there aren't many people who truly understand where I'm coming from.

Camp Boggy Creek was the one place where people understood me and that is where I met Brooklynn along with so many other beautiful young men and women facing the same or very similar battles. I remember Brooklynn, myself, and the other girls in our cabin with lupus looking in the mirror and debating if we had sunburns or butterfly rashes! We were kids and we all understood each other.
Unfortunately Brooklynn lost her battle with lupus so I've taken it upon myself to fight this battle for both of us. Brooklynn was a beautiful young woman and she fought till her last breath and with Brooklynn's help, I plan to do the same thing.
I'm currently going to school to get more involved in the medical field. Right now I'm studying to be a Medical Administrative Assistant but I plan to eventually study Pediatric Music Therapy and work with children who are fighting for their lives. Music helped me a lot while growing up and I believe that it helps people going through rough times. That is how I made it through my several fights with depression and even now when I'm not feeling so great, I turn on some music and I soon feel better. I just want to make a difference in people’s lives and make things a little easier for them.”