The first time I held a tennis racquet I didn’t even know what it was. I was four years old and found it by accident when I was playing hide and go seek in my father’s office. I gave it one swing and from that moment I was hooked. I loved playing tennis and it ruled my life. I played everyday for four hours, did thousands of clinics, and played dozens of USTA tournaments. My hard work really began to pay off at the age of 16 when I was one of four girls sponsored by the Olympic Club in San Francisco. Yet, my life took a dramatic turn when that same year I was diagnosed with lupus. Despite the diagnosis, I continued to play as hard as ever, ignoring the pain and fatigue I experienced. However, the stress from the disease and the pressures of perfection ultimately took its toll on my health and my body. The disease had gotten considerably worse and at the age of 18 and I was forced to quit tennis.
In addition to having my lifelong dream shattered, I had to cope with my disease. I had gotten the trademark “moon face” from the high doses of prednisone I had to take and became increasingly self-conscious about it, especially when people asked me what happened. My parents always told me to never be ashamed of my disease, but sometimes it was painful to talk about it and I felt increasingly overwhelmed. No matter how many times I explained my disease to those who asked, it never got easier. They would never know the full extent of what I was going through nor would they truly know the anguish I felt inside. It was especially hard when people began to either ignore me or treat me differently after finding out I was “sick”. It was hurtful, but at the same time, there were a lot of people that surprised me with how incredible and thoughtful they were about my struggle.
No one was more incredible and thoughtful than my parents. They really focused on me, my health, and how I was coping with it all. I know deep down they were scared to death, but they never showed it and always stayed strong for my sake. It took me a while, but it was with their tremendous support that I learned to deal with everything and promise myself I would never let lupus control or determine my life.
Since there is no cure for lupus, I know that my fight with the disease will be a constant and never ending battle, but I am determined to never let it defeat me. It is like Lance Armstrong’s “Live Strong” campaign. It takes strength and a passion for life in order to live. Living strong takes away from feeling like a victim and makes you feel capable. Living with lupus is not an easy thing, but it has made me a stronger, more determined, and better person.