On the outside, Josie Pearce seems like your average 17-year-old. The bright and bubbly teenager is a straight-A student, teaches dance classes at a local community center and was crowned Miss Garden Grove’s Outstanding Teen last summer.
You’d never know that just a few years ago Josie’s parents were taking her from doctor to doctor, trying to figure out why their once energetic daughter now spent days lying on the couch unable to move or attend the ballet classes she loved.
After seeing nearly 10 different doctors, Josie was finally diagnosed with lupus in October 2013.
“There had been a series of symptoms. We were overlooking them,” said Josie. “I thought I was a hypochondriac.”
Those symptoms included chronic fatigue, hair loss, skin rashes and nausea.
“When I was first diagnosed I didn’t know how this was going to affect my future,” said Josie. “But I realized I can still do everything I want to do, I just need to be more patient and definitely take things day by day.”
One of the things Josie is able to continue is her volunteer work. It’s part of what inspired her to participate in the Miss Garden Grove’s Outstanding Teen pageant. With the Lupus Foundation of America as her platform, Josie is working to raise money and awareness for the Foundation’s efforts to create a future with no lupus.
Last fall, Josie, her friends, family and fellow pageant contestants participated in the Los Angeles Walk to End Lupus Now™ for the first time. Her team, “Josie Power,” raised more than $400.
“Through the help of the Lupus Foundation of America, I found a support group with other teenage girls, just like me. The organization taught me to embrace my struggle, and it empowered me to reach out to others with the disease,” Josie said. “Even though lupus is incurable and unpredictable, I’ve become a much stronger young woman. I have had to overcome fatigue to teach dance classes and battle nausea to attend school.”
Josie is currently fundraising for the Walk in San Diego on May 16 and spreading awareness about the disease throughout her community. She’s asked local businesses to place canisters on their counters to collect change and is planning a bowling fundraiser with all proceeds going to the Foundation.
Even with the ups and downs that come from lupus, Josie has a positive outlook on the future: “I know that I’m strong enough to pursue everything I want to do.”