Exploring women’s arthritis issues and needs

Team USA’s Shannon Boxx: Life & Soccer with Lupus

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As we celebrate the FIFA Women’s World Cup™, Team Arthritis wants to pay tribute to team USA’s midfielder Shannon Boxx, who, living with lupus, is all too familiar with life with arthritis. This year’s World Cup™ marks Boxx’s fourth Women’s World Cup™.

Fun Fact: Midfielders run a distance of 120-yard across the field to play offense and sprints back to play defense, running about 7 miles in a 90-minute game and engaging in close combat to gain possession of the ball.

Boxx suspects that her lupus developed while she was in high school in Los Angeles’ suburb, Torrance. At that time, she played softball, volleyball, basketball, and soccer. Like her classmates, she trained hard, but was unable to match her teammates’ cardiovascular fitness level. At times, her fingers appear white as a result of the cold or stress (a classic sign of Raynaud’s phenomenon and often seen as part of a cluster of symptoms stemming from lupus).

In 2002, Boxx was diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome, an inflammatory autoimmune disease (like arthritis) in which white blood cells – the body’s immune system, resulting in dry eyes and mouth and can affect joints and muscles, and organs like the liver, pancreas, kidneys, lungs, stomach, and brain. Despite taking approved steroids in the tournament, she still experience fatigue and muscle ache. After the 2007 World Cup™ in China, Boxx was diagnosed with lupus.

Lupus is the name given to a group of chronic immune diseases. It affects about 15,000 Canadians-approximately one in 2000. The disease occurs when the body’s immune system begins to malfunction and attach healthy tissue in various parts of the body, causing inflammation and damage. Tissues affected can include the skin, joints, muscles, kidneys, lungs, heart, blood vessels, and brain. Other possible symptoms are unexplained fever, development of rashes on the face, and liver malfunction. Environmental factors that may trigger the disease in genetically susceptible people are sun exposure and emotional and physical stress.

When Healthline asked about her diagnosis, Boxx said: “At least I had something I could fight now. I had something I could work with the doctor on. I think just knowing gives you a little bit of piece of mind – now I could really focus on “How can I stay healthy with this?”

To keep her lupus in check, Boxx’s doctors prescribed her steroids, immunosuppressants and antimalarial medications. She went through a couple of medications before finding the right combination that works for her. “Some of the effects from the meds were worse than the actual illness,” she added.

Boxx is expecting the 2015 World Cup™ to be her last one. Her next goal is to raise awareness for lupus as she fights the disease herself. What she brings to the World Cup™, she plans to accomplish something similar for lupus through the Lupus Foundation of America. To maintain a balanced lifestyle, she will also devote her attention to her daughter and youth soccer camps. She ended her interview with Healthline on a positive note: “I’m still learning as I go. I’m learning as much as I can so I can talk about it, but also for my own sake of trying to stay as healthy as possible.”