My name is Madison Pearce (or Maddie), and I am 21 years old. I live in Bellingham, Washington with my parents, in my childhood bedroom, as I look for work. We are just two blocks away from my brother. I have been playing tennis since I was four and can’t imagine my life without it. I like to think I can dance, I pretend I can sing, and I know for a fact, that I can not do a British accent to save my life.

1.What’s one goal you wish to accomplish within the next year & why? In one year, I would like to have a steady job/career and have the ability to live on my own and support myself as much as I can. Although it’s been great living rent free at my parent’s house since I’ve graduated college!

2. You were diagnosed with Lupus at a young age, please tell us about your struggle, how you’re pulling through it & what advice would you give to someone going through something similar?  When I was twelve, I was a “normal” seventh grader trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted out of life. Within two weeks, out of nowhere, I was unable to walk, talk or feed myself. My body began to work against itself and ultimately chose to completely attack my central nervous system. The rest of my seventh grade year was spent in and out of hospitals, surrounded by confused doctors and scared family members.

After a while of searching for what could be wrong, the doctors came to the diagnosis of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, a severe auto-immune disease that affects everyone differently. After harsh doses of several steroids, I was on the road to recovery. For me now, my symptoms include extreme fatigue, open mouth sores, joint pain and swelling, and the occasional face rash – all being suppressed by 50 pills a day. Growing up with a naturopath, most of those pills are all natural, but I continue to see a Rheumatologist that helps with the more severe symptoms and treatments.

“… Continue to look for the goon in everything & everyone.”

I can honestly say that without the support of my amazing group of friends and family, I would not have the outlook I have today. I take one day at a time, and try to live my life to the fullest my body allows. My only advice to someone going through something similar is to surround yourself with only the most positive and encouraging people because there will be days where you want to ask why and cry yourself to sleep. But you need to stay strong and continue to look for the good in everything and everyone.

3. Tell us about something you had to learn the hard way. I have learned over the years that it is ok to ask for help. To this day, I still have some trouble, but I have come to understand that you do not look weak when asking someone for something. Never have I ever wanted this disease to define me, and when I was first diagnosed I thought that’s what anyone would ever see. Today, I live my life to the fullest, and if my body can’t handle it that day, then it’s out of my hands. I am capable of doing the best of my abilities, and then after that it is my responsibility to my body to listen, and if that means asking someone to walk slower with me, or pick something up because I don’t have full use of my hands at the moment, then so be it.

4. Tell us about someone who has changed your life in ways you never expected. How have they changed your life? There are tons of people who have changed my life; my best friend, my brother, my parents and grandparents. But changing it in ways that I never expected are several other people. For the past five years, I have been a counselor at Camp Phoenix, a summer camp for severely burned children. Every single one of these children has impacted my life. When you witness a child who is 94% burned, and is outside playing football, doing archery and swimming with no hands, you don’t have any bad days. The people I am surrounded by at camp have taught me what beauty is, what strength is, and most importantly what friendship is. I am honored to be a part of their lives and live my struggles in stride with theirs.

“… I have a hundred more good days than bad. that is what I try and remember.”

5. You’re an incredibly optimistic person, tell us about your road to success. How do you stay so positive about life? I wouldn’t be as optimistic as I am without my family. I recently graduated college in three years, and although there were several occasions where I almost gave up and dropped out, I didn’t. I kept putting one foot in front of the other and pushing myself to doing the best I possibly could. I think the thing about staying so positive, is to see the little things. Yes, I have bad days. And they suck and make me want to punch things. But, when you take a step back, I have a hundred more good days than bad. And that is what I try and remember.

6. What’s your process for setting goals & accomplishing them? I am a list person. I write everything down. My calendar on my phone has everything from doctor’s appointments to goals to random things I want to remember. When I set a goal, I go for it. My goal three years ago was to graduate college. There was no greater goal in my mind. It helps that I like a challenge, so when Freshman year started, I went in with the mindset of finishing one year before the people I was surrounded by. When I was in high school, I was on our varsity tennis team. I set a goal to go to state, and my senior year, I got fourth in the State Championships, during a Lupus flare. With swollen joints and painful feet, I beat some of the top players in the state of Washington.

7. Do you have a favorite quote or motto? What is it? I have two. There is a quote from a poem written about Lupus by JoAnn Abbot that says, “when your world changed, when your life changed… were you afraid, butterfly?” I got “when your world changed” as a tattoo on my back two years ago that constantly reminds me of what I have accomplished and what I have gone through.

My other favorite quote, is this: “She believed she could, so she did.” I hold that with me in whatever I am doing. Job interviews, meeting new people, having confidence… if you believe in yourself, there’s no stopping you.

8. Where do you see yourself five years from now & why? In five years, I will be 26. I see myself having travelled the world and fallen in love at least once. I will be working in the fundraising/event planning and community outreach department at some wonderful organization that helps children in some way, and will continue to fight everyday for what I want.

“Own your experiences, and don’t be afraid to get out there and experience more!”

9. What other advice might you give to the readers of 2147Miles? I wouldn’t be who I am if it weren’t for what I have gone through. Own your experiences, and don’t be afraid to get out there and experience more! It’s absolutely terrifying, but the rewards are greater than anything you can imagine. And remember, “she believed she could, so she did.” Or he. It works both ways.

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