Facing social pressures, body changes, and the battle between childhood and adulthood, teenagers begin to explore their identity. Along the way, these struggles build character and shape the person they will become. When a life-changing event occurs during these crucial years, the everyday conflicts teenagers face are compounded. External conflicts, such as chronic illnesses or family issues, cause teens to have a harder time making it through their toughest years. Even though the experiences are taxing, it is during this time teenagers learn how strong they have become.
Three years ago I felt fatigued and only wanted to sleep, no longer wanting to dance or hangout with friends. My parents took me to several doctors, yet we were never given a diagnosis. Eventually, I tested positive for autoimmune antibodies and was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. With Lupus, I experience chronic fatigue, hair loss, skin rashes, nausea, and I take medication every day to prevent the disease from getting worse. In addition to concerns about school and friends, I also worry about doctor’s appointments and blood tests.
Realizing my life has changed, I’ve made conscious decisions to benefit my health and live a stable life. I currently eat a healthier diet, take naps to battle my chronic fatigue, and work hard to monitor my stress levels. I visit my rheumatologist every two months, and I no longer have ten doctors because my condition is now manageable. 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. Knowing the disease won’t go away, I’ve learned to optimize my life with it. By working with doctors at Children’s Hospital Orange County and Miller Children’s Hospital, I have overcome an obstacle I never expected.
As a teenager suffering from Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, the Lupus Foundation of America is an organization that is really close to my heart. Being diagnosed with a life-threatening autoimmune disease at age 15 showed me how strong I was and helped me see how other people face struggles, too. 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.
In August of 2014, I began preparing for the Walk to End Lupus Now Los Angeles by sending out emails to my family and friends about the walk. To share how the donations would help find a cure for this life-threatening disease, I promoted the walk on social media. Many of my family and friends made donations for my team. By the September walk date, my team, “Josie Power,” collectively raised over $400 dollars for the foundation, and was able to spread the word about Lupus. To continue my support for the foundation, I have begun a new project to raise money for my team at an upcoming San Diego walk. Spreading awareness throughout my community, the fundraiser will raise money for the Lupus Foundation of America. Volunteering with the organization has allowed me to relate to many patients and give them hope for the future. The money raised goes to help doctors find a cure, assist patients with their struggles, and bring together support groups. The Lupus Foundation of America has made a significant impact of my life, and it is my responsibility to give back to a community that has helped me so much.
As Miss Garden Grove’s Outstanding Teen, I’ve been given the opportunity to serve communities and represent young woman in our society. Identifying with issues many teens face every day, I can encourage others through my testimony of perseverance and strength. Oftentimes, teens are underestimated, yet they hold the potential to overcome unforeseen challenges and rise above their personal expectations. My involvement in the Miss California’s Outstanding Teen Organization provides me the platform to reach out to others without reservation. In sharing my story, I hope to inspire young woman who face daily struggles and make it clear that anything can be overcome with determination.
Come support the Walk to End Lupus Now San Diego on May 16!
Miss Garden Grove’s Outstanding Teen 2015