Jessica Molon and Jen Strom are friends, former roommates and most importantly, they are each other’s support system. Jen has been living with lupus for more than four years and Jessica was recently diagnosed with a benign brain tumor.
“We can relate to each other,” said Jessica. “And Jen’s openness with her lupus throughout the years has made it easier for me to be open now.”
“My tumor may go away, but her lupus isn’t going anywhere,” said Jessica.
Through email and Facebook, the two shared their story of friendship and overcoming obstacles to raise over $800 for lupus research, education, support and advocacy.
Jen, 23, was diagnosed with lupus at the age of 17, when her doctor ordered an ANA test because she was having trouble shaking a cold.
“I complained to my mom that my hand was hurting and sore after blow drying my hair,” said Jen. “Looking back, I’ve realized that I had other symptoms even earlier than the year I was diagnosed.”
Still, Jen is able to see the positive side of being diagnosed at a young age, “I’m lucky my doctor took action so early!”
Many lupus patients are misdiagnosed, or wait years before they even make their first visit to a rheumatologist. Jen’s family became a member of the Lupus Foundation of America community early on, helping launch the Tampa Walk to End Lupus Now™, and continue to be a top fundraising team.
Jen has been open about her battle with lupus. She felt that sharing made it easier to deal with the symptoms, medicines and day-to-day living with lupus.
“Everyone has their bad days,” Jen said of living with lupus. “Sharing your story with one friend, having one person know, even if you don’t want to tell anyone at first, has made me more open and it doesn’t hurt.”
It was that attitude that inspired Jessica to create her Page of Hope and share the news of her recent diagnosis of a benign brain tumor.
It took Jessica’s doctors about a year to diagnosis her with a benign brain tumor. Finally knowing what was causing her health issues was satisfying, but the reality was jarring. Through it all, Jessica tried to stay positive, something that comes through when reading the letter she wrote for her Page of Hope. In that letter, she reflects on her friendship with Jen: “She is always there if I need to talk or to yell at me for waiting till tomorrow or the next day to take my medications.”
When reading the letter, Jen remembers herself having especially bad days while taking injectable steroids for her lupus. Jessica was always there to remind Jen that she was just having a tough day by treating her like any other friend and sharing jokes, something they still use as a tool to cope.
When the two friends first started sharing Jessica’s Page of Hope, they were surprised at how many people rallied and made a donation. Jessica received emails with kind and encouraging words from people she didn’t expect to take notice. Jessica, who is currently completing her masters in higher education, was surprised when her professors not only gave her the extra time she needed on her assignments, but wanted to talk with her and make sure she was okay. Not all environments are welcoming for people battling lupus or other serious health issues, but the two friends encourage college students to take advantage of resources on campus, through guidance counselors, health centers, as well as other services provided.
In the future, Jen and her family will continue to participate in the Tampa Walk to End Lupus NowTM and Jessica hopes to join their team this year. Additionally, the two hope that their appeal to friends and family resonates enough for them to join and take action in the fight against lupus.