In 2013, I was a typical college sophomore…devoted to my school and volunteer work and a little college life fun. The days were long, nights were short, and mornings seemed to come earlier every day. I never listened to my body. I ignored the aches, pains, and swelling. I wrote off fatigue as stress from assignments and the occasional cold and fever was nothing cry about. I pushed myself to do it all and to have it all…that is until April 17, 2013.
It was a typical day: wake up, get dressed, go to class, hit the library, catch up with the crew, sleep. I woke up at 3:27 the next morning gasping for air and bearing an excruciating chest pain. After a dramatic ambulance ride and several tests later, I was told I had two blood clots in my leg, one in my lung, and a pneumothorax (collapsed lung) to round it out. Doctors didn't have an explanation for such unusual symptoms in a healthy nineteen year old.
After months of endless doctors' office visits, blood tests, procedures and prescriptions, I had come to my wits end. I could not, nor could anyone else for that matter, figure out what was plaguing me with this plethora of symptoms; rashes, migraines, nausea, vomiting, extreme fatigue, hair loss, decreased appetite, muscle weakness, joint pain, weight loss, numbness in my fingers and toes, and of course the inevitable depression.
Friendships began to crumble and many others lost interest once my story was no longer new and dramatic. My health condition was dictating a new life for me and the world kept spinning. My body didn't seem like my own anymore, I didn't recognize myself in the mirror. I got tired of doctor after doctor telling me I was depressed and stressed. I desperately wanted them to understand I was not in pain because I was depressed. I was depressed because I was in pain.
I took a medical leave of absence from school and withdrew from the upper level nursing program because I could no longer handle the work load. My academic scholarship was in jeopardy because I could not make it out of bed to get to class, let alone keep up if I went. It took months for someone to finally listen and run the correct diagnostic test. I was diagnosed with Undifferentiated Lupus Erythematosus/Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease in January 2014.
Since then my health has been a physical and emotional rollercoaster, but I have learned to manage my illness so it no longer has power over me. I graduated from North Carolina A&T State University in 2015 and I continue to move up the career ladder. This May I'll graduate from University of Maryland University College with my Masters!
Donating to the foundation and increasing awareness about lupus is important to me because it affects my community. Women, especially women of color are more likely to be diagnosed with lupus. Not to mention that 1 in 537 young Black women are impacted by the disease. Team Cherokee stands to support all impacted by lupus and continues to thrive. Please join us in our efforts!