Shannon Boxx was living the American dream when she became a professional soccer player in 2001. She won gold medals with the United States at the 2004 Athens Olympics, 2008 Beijing Olympics, and 2012 London Olympics. She also finished third place or better with the USA at the 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 FIFA World Cups.
While Shannon was winning some pretty tough battles on the field, she was privately facing her toughest battle off the field: lupus. Shannon first began experiencing symptoms such as extreme fatigue early in her professional career. On some days, she couldn’t even manage walking up a flight of steps.
Shannon visited many different healthcare professionals and reported her symptoms, but it took six years for Shannon to obtain an accurate diagnosis.
Lupus is an incurable, chronic, autoimmune disease that can affect any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or internal organs such as the kidney). According to GSK rheumatologist Dr. Tania Gonzalez-Rivera, diagnosis can be difficult because symptoms are non-specific and it can take a long time for physicians to put all the symptoms together into a complete picture. This is why lupus is sometimes referred to as the “great imitator” or “mimicker.” Some of the most common symptoms include fatigue, joint pain and swelling and, sometimes, a butterfly-shaped facial skin rash.
When Shannon was diagnosed in 2008, she only confided in one of her teammates, keeping her disease mostly quiet out of fear that it would negatively impact her career.
“My career depended on me being physically fit and mentally strong. It was a very difficult standard to maintain and I felt people wouldn’t understand if I told them that I had this disease.”
Shannon learned to lean on a support system of family, friends and healthcare professionals to help her manage her disease. In 2012, she had the courage to tell her team and coaches, and she felt relieved when her team gave her their full support to continue playing.
Shannon decided to retire after her team won the World Cup in 2015 and decided that her next goal would be to do good for others by becoming an advocate for lupus awareness. For May’s Lupus Awareness Month 2017, she partnered with GSK to do just that. She now speaks openly about her lupus and encourages others to do the same, and to use the resources available such as those on UsinLupus.com, to give them the tools and confidence to speak openly and honestly with their healthcare professionals.
Today, Shannon is a busy wife and mom of two children under the age of three. She says it’s important for her to take care of herself, for her family.
“While I’m currently feeling well, lupus is with me every day. If I have a bad day, I just tell myself that tomorrow is a new day and I try again.”
Watch Shannon’s story, Living with Lupus.