Meet Our 2017 Faces of Hope
Every year our Faces of Hope are an incredibly important part our "Chapter Family." Their images on our Walk materials, Chapter newsletter, highway billboards and more, inspire our walkers and teams, raise awareness and engage those touched by lupus. The cruel mystery does not daunt them or us!
I was diagnosed with lupus in January of 2015 at the age of 17 but my struggle with symptoms began in March of 2012. My parents and I had no idea why I was always getting sick and tearing ligaments all the time. It started changing my everyday life. Despite all the injuries and sickness, once I began high school I became very active with cross country, pole vaulting, JROTC, and orchestra. I was doing well in each, but it seemed every year come March or April I’d tear a ligament, preventing me from ever going to the state championships when I finally qualified.
My diagnosis started by observing a rash that had persisted for six months. After determining it wasn’t a fungus or allergies, my doctors sent me to Grady Hospital to get a biopsy and they concluded it was an autoimmune disease. This was very hard to hear, as it disqualified me from going to basic training in June 2015 for the Marines. After the biopsy they continued the tests and they came back conclusive - I had lupus.
At first, the rash was embarrassing and I was told not to let it define me, but that was probably a mistake. I embraced it and then no one really asked me about it. Now I may get the occasional “Did you get in a fight?”, but I explain and they are cool. Embracing the rash gave me confidence, which gave me the ability to get a job in marketing while I was a junior in high school. Since then I have gotten my GED but I am unable to work as putting a string of “good days” together is a challenge.
The LFA Georgia Chapter has been a great source of information, companionship, and the Chapter’s Emergency Financial Assistance Fund even stepped in when my Dad and I were in a crunch and couldn’t afford a doctor or medicine. A doctor’s care and the medications are helping and I remainhopeful. I just got approved for medical insurance.
It has been difficult, and there have been many obstacles. Luckily some of my favorite things to do as a kid were obstacle courses.
I was born on November 6, 1970, but in 2008 I started living a new life: a life with lupus.
After seeing three different physicians I was officially diagnosed on November 5, 2009. Having no knowledge of what lupus was or how my life would be affected, I started my search on the internet. While reading about facts and treatments, I found a gem. I discovered the LFA Georgia Chapter. Immediately I wanted to get involved and the next year, I did. I attended my first walk in Atlanta and had an amazing experience, but I wanted to play a bigger role in raising awareness and learning more about lupus, so I hosted my first walk in Columbus in 2011 at a local park.
I saw the potential to increase my impact so I established The Diamond Butterflies group and began facilitating a monthly support group in 2013. After my diagnosis, my first prayer was for God to take away all my worries and doubts about lupus and for Him to use me as He saw fit, allowing me this experience so that I could inspire and motivate others. With prayer, acceptance and guidance from God I made a decision to be a voice for my local community.
For the past six years I have had the opportunity to meet remarkable people who lack knowledge about this chronic disease that could possibly be sitting on their doorstep. Lupus has taken me on this amazing journey and I have learned the value of my health. Despite health issues, I choose to focus on the good by being happy and optimistic, which puts a smile on my face and has engraved a permanent smile in my heart. I am on a mission. No matter the highs or lows, my heart and mind will remain humble, clear and mindful as I bring lupus awareness and opportunity to my community
I was diagnosed with a disease I’d never heard of in the fall of 1998, at the age of 18. As early as 1992, I was experiencing various health problems that were severe and took me to several different doctors seeking relief. At one point my parents
were told that I was crazy. It wasn’t until my mother, a nurse, told me to go to my doctor and ask for an ANA test that things changed. When I asked the doctor for the test, he asked me what books I had been reading. A week later I was referred to a rheumatologist. After six years of hospital stays, toxic drugs, frustration, and even the thought that I indeed might be crazy, I finally had a name for this disease, and it was lupus.
I’m not going to focus on the negative struggles this disease has brought to both my family and me. I’m not going to talk about the bad days, the scary decisions, and the bad side effects. Instead I want to talk about what lupus has given me: an appreciation for life and a clear purpose for living. I wake up everyday, even on the bad ones, and thank God for the day ahead, and pray for the ones this disease took too soon. I make the most of the little things, desperate to enjoy every moment I have. I am a wife, mother of two, daughter, aunt, and sister. I work a full-time job as the controller of Dragon Con, Inc., one of Atlanta’s largest events, while attending school. I don’t just live with lupus; I choose to live in spite of it. I refuse to be a victim!
Thanks to the work of LFA Georgia Chapter and the tireless efforts by many of you reading this today, I honestly believe that I will see a world where a young girl diagnosed with lupus will not only know what lupus is, but will have the hope to fight the disease.