Growing up, I was always involved in sports. I began dance and gymnastics when I was four years old. I started to play soccer and softball when I was five years old and basketball and volleyball soon after that. I really enjoyed these activities and made many of my best friends while participating in them. I always knew that something wasn’t quite right though. Sure, at first I thought maybe I just wasn’t as good as the rest of the girls my age. They could run circles around me and seemed to be very coordinated. I would run and not be able to keep up. It seemed all of my friends had so much energy while I could not catch my breath and want to sit down. My ankles hurt constantly. My mom thought maybe I just had weak ankles. I still kept playing sports and trying hard to do well at them.
Looking back on the past four years of high school, the everyday struggles of an average student were overwhelming. The peppy, high school girl, prancing through the hallways of school just really might be deteriorating inside. Hiding behind smiles and filling your schedule with endless activities are a high school student’s forte. Truth is, every person you meet is fighting a battle within themselves. My mom was always there for me through all of it. She always knew how to be positive and make me feel better. She always made me feel good about myself and gave me the hope and strength to keep pushing forward. My mother has always taught me and demonstrate for me to push through. I admire my mother because she has always been strong. She was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease when I was a little girl. Her and my father divorced in the midst of all of this and my mother was a single mother. She taught school during the day and sometimes in the evening to make extra money. If even she wasn’t feeling well, she made me feel like I was the most important thing to her. She has shown me that nothing can get us down and that fighting is what we have to continue to do.
At the beginning of my story I told you what I wasn’t good at and what I couldn’t do and hadn’t done. So now I want to tell you what I can do and have done and will be doing. Even though I fought hard and played soccer, volleyball and basketball through my sophomore year of high school, it was at the end of that school year that I decided I was going to focus on academics; something I was good at, and give up sports. Academics was something my body could do, as long as I wasn’t in too much pain, or sick. My junior year in high school, I started to take classes from the community college, in addition to my high school course load. In fact, I have enough credits to be considered a sophomore next year, which will actually be my first year of college at the University of Northern Iowa. I have maintained a 3.74 GPA while doing all of this. At the same time, I have worked at least 2 jobs (currently 3) at one time. I have purchased 2 (very, very used) vehicles all on my own with money I have worked for. I have helped my single mother by paying for my own clothes and activities the past three years, until this past year when she remarried. It’s not easy either because I often miss school due to the Behcet’s Syndrome. There are times that I’m not sick, but I still can’t be at school because too many others are sick.
I still remember that day in October of 2016 when I was finally diagnosed with the chronic illness, Behcet’s Syndrome. I was told there is no cure, but there is a medicine that could help with the symptoms. I am currently taking that medicine. With every drug comes side effects too. It is a daily battle to work through the side effects, as well as the symptoms from my illness. I was so angry and didn’t even want to talk about it. I finally decided one day that I wasn’t going to let it hold me back. After all, what I ever really wanted was a true diagnosis so that I didn’t have to keep going to doctors in search of something. I’ve been told many times that I need to tell my story. I need to share with people my story to bring awareness to this evil illness. So this is my story. I can tell you that I have definitely been blessed with this illness and I received is a challenge to succeed despite it. I am blessed to have so many opportunities and the family and friends who support me. So, I guess you could say that my fantastic, heartwarming story, is actually the presence of a fighter…..Also known as……..Emma Marguerite Lonneman.