July 25, 2011

Diddy Dirty Money's Kalenna Harper Shares Her Lupus Story

While awareness of lupus is on the rise, most people would agree we still have a long way to go. This is why when I’m on the road with my band, talking with friends, or out running errands, I raise my voice about lupus and how it’s touched my life. Each of us sharing our personal story is a simple and powerful way we can raise awareness of lupus, whether it’s talking with co-workers, the stranger you met on the bus, or posting something on Facebook.

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.

6 comments:

Kristen said...

Kalena.......thank you for sharing your story about your sister. It makes all of us suffering with this disease feel like we are not standing alone!

Kristen Murphy

TiffanyAndLupus said...

LOVE that she's being so open about lupus. We need more individuals to not be afraid and speak up! IT's the only way to spread awareness and inform the public on what they can do to help!

Thank you for sharing Sophie <3

forevertweey41 said...

Thank you for sharing your story. There is so much unknown about this disease and so many people don't understand the effects of this disease on the people who have it such as myself and their families. The more we talk about it the more awareness there will be for it. Thank you once again for sharing your story.

Darnella K said...

KALENNA, I WANT TO THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR STORY. MY BROTHER WAS DIAGNOSED WITH LUPUS ABOUT 6 YEARS AND WAS IN A COMA FOR 10 DAYS AND ALMOST DIED. I FELT LIKE THERE WAS NOTHING I COULD DO FOR HIM, HE IS STILL DEALING WITH THE DISEASE BUT IS DOING MUCH BETTER; HOWEVER I HAVE NOW BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH HAVING THE TRAIT AND I AM NOW GOING THROUGH A ROUGH TIME DEALING WITH ARTHRITIS AND MUSCLE AND JOINT PAIN. NEEDLESS TO SAY IT IS SCARY BUT FOR ME AFTER SEEING BY BROTHER GO THROUGH SO MUCH.

Antresha Wilkerson said...

I just wanted to say thank you Kalenna for sharing your story of your sister, I was finally diagnosed with lupus at the age of 25 but was sick in college. I also wanted to say that I love ditty dirty money and I have the album. But it is so important to talk about lupus and spread the word because a lot of people still don't even know what lupus is. Thank you again.

The Lupus Lantern said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story. It means so much to all of us who live with lupus every day. One day we will find the cure!