NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Everyone copes with tragedy in their own way, and Faith Deckard who was diagnosed with lupus last spring, is no different.
Lupus is an inflammatory disease caused by the immune system attacking its own tissue. It can cause damage to any part of the skin. Chronic joint pain, fatigue, and hair loss are just some of the symptoms.
What makes Faith's story different when it comes to coping with her diagnosis, is her determination to use her story to help others.
She was invited to speak to Nacogdoches High School, where she graduated in 2014, about what she learned from overcoming her own struggles.
"I want to first get things started with a game, where you raise your hand if any of these questions apply to you," Faith said. "Raise your hand if your parents were never married or got divorced. Raise your hand if someone in your immediate family has been incarcerated. Raise your hand if your parents were unable to or didn't go to college."
Faith's message is that no matter what hand you've been dealt, you always have control over how you choose to respond to hardship.
"So if you noticed I raised my hand on all those questions, and I'm in my third year of college," Faith said. "And statistically speaking, if you raised your hand to any of those questions you are less likely to go to college or ever hold a degree."
Her hope is to use her story to shatter the labels, and statistics that she feels hold many people back.
"I think our society has this idea that if a person is a certain color, or shape, or size, or has this certain disability," Faith said. "Then we determine their fate or their story, like we know exactly where they're going. And it's just not true."
The daughter of two ex- convicts, Faith is a testament that regardless of where you come from, you have a choice how you react to life.
She was NHS Class of 2014 Salutatorian, and is now a junior Biology major at Trinity University in San Antonio. As a scholarship recipient selected on grades, and merits, Faith has traveled across the world studying to become a physician one day.
"And then I got sick, it started out as strep, and then turned into an ear infection," Deckard said. "So I went to health services, and they told me I was fine. But I only got worse."
She was admitted to the hospital, and one inconclusive test after another, she entered what would become one of the darkest times of her life.
"So basically they told me I have cancer, puerperia, or lupus," Deckard said. "I'm thinking I want to be a physician so I'm supposed to be the one wearing the white coat and helping others, but now I'm the patient."
She said during this time she turned to writing to cope with the confusion, pain, and difficulty of learning she would now live with the chronic autoimmune illness.
"I'm just writing it all down, because what else do I have to do?" Faith said. "That's how we got this book. It's called, Finding Grace, and it's just this story of what do when this unexpected thing happens, and how do you cope, and pick yourself back up."
Instead of allowing her circumstances to hold her back, she used them to propel herself, and everyone around her forward.
"Life happens, and things happen, and we all have our personal battles and struggles going on," Faith said. "And we can let them stop us, and use it as an excuse to not do something, or we can own it."
Her book connected with others going through their own personal struggles, and became a light for those living with Lupus.
"This woman told me that I have Lupus, and I was giving up on life and I read your book and it reminded me to keep fighting to keep trying," Deckard said. "That is just something that leaves me speechless."
She said she hopes it starts a conversation among people that even though you might be struggling with an invisible illness, or obstacle, or demon that you have a choice to overcome all labels, and statistics.
"Yes I have lupus, but lupus is not me. I think we are all in control of our futures, our destinies, and our lives. And that's the biggest message I think I'm trying to share."
Faith said she would not be where she is today without her family, friends, and doctors that ensured she never gave up hope.
If you would like to order Faith's book, Finding Grace, click here.