PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A local former professional soccer player is sharing her story to spread the word about a disease that affects 1.5 million Americans.
Three-time Olympic gold medalist Shannon Boxx was living her dream, but in the middle of it, she thought it could all disappear.
“Walking up a set of stairs I would have to rest and I’m like ‘I’m a professional athlete and I’m having to rest, this isn’t making sense,'” Boxx said.
After years of uncertainty, in 2008, doctors diagnosed box with lupus — a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage skin, joints and organs. For Boxx, it caused a lot of pain.
She was one of just 16,000 people who are diagnosed with lupus each year.
“I kept it really quiet. I was afraid for my job,” she said. “I was playing at a very high-stress level job and I had to perform on cue and lupus is a disease when you have no idea when a flare is going to hit.”
There were days when she couldn’t practice and even thought about retiring. In 2011, right before the Women’s World Cup, she told her team.
“They were my family and I was keeping this major secret from them,” she said.
With support, she kept playing until 2015 but even with medication, flares can come and go.
“Every medication that I’m on is a borrowed drug from another disease and that is crazy,” Boxx said.
Soccer is all about how fast you can move on your feet.
“A lot of this is just finding the rhythm finding control of the ball,” Boxx said.
She found that rhythm as a professional player and now teaches young girls to do the same at her Bridge City Soccer Academy.
“Our goal and our vision is to empower these girls to be successful on and off the field,” she said.
Now Boxx is taking also her goal off the field and walking every year to raise awareness for the disease — with one constant motivation.
“My kids, I just want to be able to run around with them,” Boxx said. “It’s important for me to step up and create more awareness because we do need it. There are so many people that have it much worse than I do.”
May is Lupus Awareness Month but this year’s Walk to End Lupus is coming up September 28, 2019, at Sellwood Riverfront Park.