Anyone who has met 12-year-old Willow Job, of Cockeysville, knows that she has the heart and soul of a champion but now it is official. Willow was recently selected as the 2016 Child Champion for the Walk to End Lupus Now which was held on Aug. 20 in Baltimore. She was honored for her strength in battling lupus personally and her leadership in increasing awareness about the disease. Willow was the official ribbon cutter who kicked off the walk; along with her team, Willow's Lupus Warriors, she is halfway to her goal of raising $1,000 by Sept. 21, as part of Survivors' Summer Strides for a Cure.
When she was six years old, Willow was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the body's healthy tissues. Lupus can attack any organ and leaves patients feeling fatigued and often in a great deal of pain. There is no cure. Willow has been battling lupus for more than half her life and, sadly, some days she has so much pain that she can't even get out of bed. Willow deals with the pain through exercise, reading, drawing, crafts, piano, violin and, of course, her school studies.
"I have to be strong…there are many things going against me," she explains. "I don't have my health, so I focus on my grades."
As a seventh-grader at Cockeysville Middle School, Willow is a hard-working, dedicated straight-A student who excels in art and as a member of the Cockeysville glee and chess clubs. Willow deals with the side effects of both the disease and the numerous medications she must take with flair. She covers her hair loss and protects herself from the sun with stylish hats and muses, "I have so many hats; I could open up my own shop!"
No matter how many bumps, or how rough the ride, Willow is not losing sight of where she wants this road to lead. She wants a cure, and she has some ideas on what must be done for that to occur. More attention should be paid not just to lupus, but to the children who have it, she said.
"Lupus is not as recognized as other childhood diseases," she added. "I want to be a voice for other kids."
Willow would like to see more advertising for lupus awareness and fundraising. She also has her eye on medical school and. not surprisingly, wants to be a pediatric rheumatologist, so the she can study lupus and the children who have it.
If you would like to show support for Willow's fight against lupus by donating to her team, Willow's Lupus Warriors, you can find more information online at baltimorelupuswalk16.kintera.org/willowj7. The money raised will go directly to fund innovative lupus research, better awareness and improved critical free education and services for the more than 80,000 adults and children who are living with lupus in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.