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Lupus Awareness month came to a close last week but here at QALO our heart is to see the battle against Lupus continue long past the month of May. This is why we wanted to talk with former member of the US Women’s National Team and Olympic soccer player, Shannon Boxx. Her amazing career features 3 gold medals while playing in 4 World Cups before ultimately retiring after a recent World Cup win in 2015.
Right in the midst of it however, Shannon was diagnosed with Lupus in 2008. It was exactly this that made her so interesting to us. Boxx’s career standing by itself is incredible. Our society elevates individual accomplishment and without a doubt, Shannon certainly achieved a great deal by herself. But it is what she overcame and continues to fight that distinguishes her from other successful athletes. Shannon personifies a story that carries hope to others in the Lupus community…we interviewed her below:
After her playing days at Notre Dame, Shannon played in Germany for a couple years. but for the first time was questioning whether she wanted to continue playing. “For me, I really need to enjoy what I’m doing, and I just didn’t enjoy it (soccer) anymore.” She returned home and took some time away from soccer. Surprisingly, it was a co-ed league that got her back into loving soccer again. So she joined the WUSA (Women’s United Soccer Association) in 2001.
After three years playing in the WUSA and after two failed attempts at making the US Women’s National Team, Boxx said, “my plan was to play through the year (2003) then retire.” At the end of the year however, she was invited to the National Team camp for the third time.
“I thought it’d be great if I made it but if I didn’t, I had a backup plan,” Boxx stated. The coaches even told her she had no chance to make the team. Without pressure or fear, Shannon played her best and made the team saying she was, “completely shocked.”
Four years later in 2007, following many injuries Shannon once again planned to retire once the Olympics were over. But it wasn’t just injuries or her lack of enjoyment for the game this time, it was something else, “In 2007 I already knew I had Sjogren’s Syndrome (another autoimmune disease often associated with Lupus), I felt more fatigue than usual so my health was really on my mind in consideration of retirement.”
Around the same time of her diagnosis with Lupus in 2008, Shannon met her eventual husband, Aaron. Although she wasn’t able to open up to teammates and coaches then, Shannon was able to tell Aaron. His reaction not only brought them closer together but reminded her of another love she had. “For him to be so supportive, made me fall in love with him even more,” Boxx stated, “and also restored my love of soccer again.” Aaron encouraged her with the vision of how much she could accomplish and do for the community, “so all that stuff about quitting in 2008 just went out the window” Boxx laughingly said. This set into motion a common theme. Aaron became the rock that Shannon relied on, “I just had Aaron…Aaron was my support,” Boxx said.
Then in 2010, Shannon’s Lupus seemed to go to another level of symptoms. The fatigue was worse, practices became harder and she would often spend the rest of the day in bed but the day finally came in 2011 when her teammates and coaches heard the news. “My teammates are by my side everyday so once they knew, I had such relief.” In the next four years she continued to play and thrive, ultimately ending her career with a World Cup win in 2015.
Throughout Shannon’s story, what shined through was the power of encouragement in key moments of her life that drove her to continue to play the game. But now that same fuel that once gave her the push to play soccer is being used to help others with Lupus. Boxx’s largest organization she works with is the Lupus Foundation but she also is working with groups where she currently resides in the Pacific Northwest. “Can we get the word out? I’ve found that my voice is my best tool” Boxx said. She is inspired to bring awareness to the facts that there is no cure and shockingly there is only one drug that is specifically for Lupus. Boxx had a message for those fighting Lupus with her, “asking for help is not a failure” For Shannon it has been her marriage to Aaron that has kept her strong but it does not matter who it is, Boxx strongly suggested advocates in your corner, “you need people around day in and day out that will give support.”
For our readers, you can go to the Lupus Foundation to spread awareness or donate money. Here at QALO we were inspired to know more about Lupus and provide awareness to our sphere of influence which Shannon and her family have helped support. You can buy our Purple Lupus Ring that gives 10% back towards Alliance for Lupus Research. As Shannon says, “The ring symbolizes so much and then in addition it helps the Lupus community”