Jennifer Flores - Team RED

Categories: Overcoming
Date: 1 Aug 2015 22:00

My name is Jennifer “RED” Flores. I am 33 years old and have Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). Growing up I was an active child spending most of my time playing fast pitch softball anywhere and everywhere I could. I started playing ball at the age of 6 and made a pretty good run at it. At the age of 16 I saw a doctor for some pretty severe knee pain. This was the beginning of the everyday battle that is Lupus. My parents were told that I was having growing pains, and because of my being so athletic, my body was just talking to me and that I needed to take it easy.  At the time I was not showing enough symptoms to have been diagnosed with having lupus.  I was referred to a Rheumatologist who began to dig, poke, and prod. I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Things began to get rough and really started to progress; I was having joint pain, chest pain, and shortness of breath almost on daily basis. I lived as normal a life as possible landing a career in the medical field and had the support of my family and co-workers who understood my everyday ups and downs. One morning I woke up to find the blood vessels in my eyes had burst and my eyes were bloodshot. Unable to see, go outside or be in any light I was referred to an Ophthalmologist who then immediately confirmed my having SLE. I was diagnosed as having Uveitis and had to undergo a series of steroid shots in both eyes… let me just say NOT fun. During my next follow up with my doctor, my lab work had convinced him that with all the issues with my heart and kidneys and other antibodies tested, I was told children would not be an option for me. I was 18.

After a long ongoing battle of medications, tests, blood transfusions, homeopathic remedies, and a type of chemo treatment, I now have what I would like to consider a successful relationship with Lupus. I have overcome every obstacle set in my way, including having had a healthy baby boy. I have good days and bad, but I have learned to listen to my body and to my doctors, which has allowed for me to enjoy as normal of a life as I can have. 

For me, SAYiWON'T represents a sense of confidence and positivity. If I believe I can, then I will.  If Lupus has done anything for me, it’s opened my eyes to appreciate what I have and see things in a different light because they could always be worse. Since having my son, I have become more determined than ever to take on and beat this disease. After all, they told me that I couldn’t have him. 

If asked to describe myself in one word it would be “RELENTLESS”. Once diagnosed with Lupus, I hit the floor running and never looked back. I may have Lupus, take medication the rest of my life, have pain or discomfort, but I will not let it keep me from being me. Regardless of what comes next, I’m ready for it and I'll only get stronger as I go. I can’t dwell on things or let the struggles of everyday life slow me down. If I do, I'm going to miss what’s happening right in front of me.

“You don’t know how strong you are until you have to be.”  SAY I WON'T! 
Team Red

Lupus is an autoimmune disease or illness which causes inflammation in various tissues of the body. To break it down, your immune system fights bacteria to prevent infection using antibodies that your body produces. People with Lupus produce abnormal antibodies that are called autoantibodies which your body doesn’t recognize so your immune system fights against you instead. As of now there is not cure for this disease, only relief of symptoms and there is an ongoing battle to fund research and education. There are three women in my family aside from myself who have Lupus all of them older than me. Two of them recently diagnosed within the past five years and both with two different kinds of Lupus and in that short span of time their lives have been turned upside down. I have seen the worst of what this disease can do and I know It is possible to live a long life with Lupus, but only if we continue to spread awareness. 

That being said “TEAM RED” has set forth on a journey to spread Lupus Awareness and help raise funds for the Lupus Foundation of America. This year, my team and I participated in the Walk to End Lupus and we had a blast. We also held fundraising events to help support the foundation in education, research, and finding a cure. We had such a great turn out that we already have sponsors and donors lined up for next year’s events. It is important to reach out to our communities because Lupus is very hard to diagnose and treat, but if caught early on could mean a world of difference for that person. “TEAM RED” consists of family and friends willing to sacrifice their time for a good cause. We want to be a voice for those who need one and help educate, not just our family, but be a resource for anybody who needs one.

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