Have you ever heard of lupus? Well, I'm Jessica, and I'm nine years old, and that's what I have.   Here's how it all started. 

When I was eight years old, I was sick for a very long time. I got poked a lot and it hurt, but I got used to it. I learned that I had something called pericarditis. That's a problem with the heart. I learned that it's not fun when your heart doesn't work like it's supposed to. 

Then I turned nine. That's when I found out that I had lupus, and that's when I learned that it was lupus all along that caused the problem with my heart. It was really hard for me when they were figuring everything out. I had a kidney biopsy done and the doctors told me some bad news and some not so bad news. They said that I had severe kidney damage-for a normal kid-but that it was only average damage for a kid with lupus. Well at least it wasn't two severes, right? 

About that time, when I was in the third grade, everyone except my friends teased me and said that I looked fat, I guess because I had always been skinny. I wasn't really fat. The medicine that I needed to take made me look that way, that's all. I was sad, so I asked my mother to come in and talk to the kids about lupus and about what I had been through. She's a nurse, so she really can help kids to understand things. 

Now only one kid teases me!

Teasing is really mean because it hurts people's feelings, like mine. I hope that if you tease anyone, well then you'll apologize afterwards when you think about it. I know that sometimes kids tease because they just don't understand and they feel scared. That's what happened in my class anyway.

My friends are really understanding and I can share my secrets with them. They always stick by me and they never tease. They don't care if I have lupus or not. You'd like them!

Now I get along with my life as if nothing happened. The medicine helped me feel like my old self, and I can play soccer, which I LOVE, and do most anything else. I think that my family and my friends helped me the most during the past few years. I'm writing about all this because I thought you might be curious. If you'd like to know some more, I hope that you'll write me a note.

If you do, I'll tell you about my brand new dog, too. I got a German Shepherd puppy for Christmas. We call him Zeus, even though his real name is Zeus's Comet. He's real cute, and I love him so much! he likes to play with my other dog, Maggie, who's a Great Terrier. They used to fight, but they're friends now. In April, I get to take him to obedience training. I had a really tough time right after Christmas, and had to go to the Intensive Care Unit. Am I ever glad that I'm better, now!

Want to see what I'm up to now? 

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Joan Fleitas, Ed.D.
Associate Professor of Nursing, Lehman COllege, CUNY
Bronx, New York 10468

Last updated: August 12, 2006