July 25, 2011
Diddy Dirty Money's Kalenna Harper Shares Her Lupus Story
I will start by sharing with you my story. Zakiyyah is my middle sister. She died from complications associated with lupus at just 18-years-old. When she was very young, we started noticing symptoms like knee aches, sensitivity to sunlight which caused dry patches, dry mouth with ulcers and excessive plaque on her teeth. She was originally diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and then once she turned 9 the doctor said it was lupus.
Zakiyyah was always the voice of reason and rationale in our family. She was wise beyond her years and in her short life she inspired us all. I remember when I was going through difficult times in my life, she was the first one to say, “Kalenna calm down.” She knew that I was stressing over issues that would soon be resolved with time.
My family had six children (I'm the oldest) so it might have been safe to assume that it was a huge adjustment for us but it wasn't. We just all fell in and did what we had to do to support my sister like it was second nature. My mother was able to stay home and care for my sister while my dad worked and us kids went to school. She set the tone for how the family dealt with my sister's illness. She handled it with ease so the rest of us just followed her lead.
I think about and cherish every moment I had with Zakiyyah. She was funny with high spirits and always had something positive to say to others. She didn’t allow her condition to dampen her spirits. She excelled in school and was a straight A student. She did her best to never miss a day. I knew she had migraines just about every day but she still wanted to go to school anyway. The school she attended, Judson HS, now has a scholarship in her name.
Zakiyyah made sure to get to the most out of her life and shared that philosophy with others. When anyone would complain about anything she would say, “So you're going to sit and stress over that all day?,” or “Are you going to let that one thing ruin your day...your life?” She had a way of making people feel that any problem could be conquered. She didn't understand why people let setbacks or hard times dictate their future. She was all about overcoming and making the best out of everything.
Zakiyyah had big plans. She was looking forward to attending college and wanted to become a plastic surgeon. Her drive and determination is what keeps me going today. If she can have that outlook on life in her condition, I can definitely soar. If I ever even contemplate feeling down, I think about Zakiyyah telling me, “Kalenna calm down.”
I'm Kalenna Harper Vick of Diddy Dirty Money, this is my story. I hope you will join me and share yours. Visit www.lupusvoices.org to add your voice and help raise awareness of lupus.