During high school, Jazmine was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune diseases that causes an overproduction of thyroid hormones. Read more about her incredible Learn how she has transformed tragedy into triumph with her upcoming charity event Inspired 4 Change.
Tell us more about your journey.
Right after my senior year of high school I lost a drastic amount of weight very quickly. I went from weighing 145 to 100. I was constantly sleepy and had no social life; my hair began to fall out as well. The doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me and my mom thought I was depressed. One day a doctor finally tested my thyroid and discovered I had Graves’ disease. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease that causes an overproduction of thyroid hormones. It causes extreme fatigue, weight changes, heart complications, tremors and sometimes bulging eyes. I became insecure about my physical image and I felt like I was living the life of a 50-year-old rather than a 20-year-old. Due to the severity of my condition, I suffered heart complications as well. After my last procedure I decided to become an advocate and help educate and inspire others through my passion and my story.
You conceived Inspired 4 Change after being diagnosed with Graves Disease. How important is it for young people to turn misfortune into action?
It is extremely important. Every major accomplishment in my life has been produced from a misfortune. I wasn’t able to attend the college of my choice because of lack of financial support and rather than give up the dream of college I went to community college and ended up attending a university that I never thought I would (James Madison University). There I learned about my passion for event planning. I learned the importance of being a leader in a population where you are the minority. And it was there that I gained a true understanding of what it meant to be a sister and the importance of helping your community through joining Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated. I recently experienced my first heart break and it tore me up; I felt my life was over and I felt the lowest I had ever felt in my life. But it was through that I was able to examine who I really was and what type of woman I wanted to be. It pushed me to follow every dream for myself and to be confident in who I am as a woman.
Is there a lot of advocacy in the medical community for Graves Disease? How will your event help further that advocacy?
There sadly is not just because there are so many autoimmune conditions and Graves’ isn’t considered to be life-threatening. Many people overlook the severity of autoimmune diseases which is why they are termed invisible illnesses. Most people think you are fine because in most cases there are no physical symptoms but the internal toll it takes on your body is significant. I believe my event will help spread awareness because most people have never heard of Graves’ disease, and when I share my story people are always shocked. Also my hope is that more people will know the importance of getting every body system checked out because most people never get their thyroid levels tested.
What do you hope attendees at Inspired 4 Change get from the event? How do you want them to feel when they leave?
I hope they gain an understanding of you can’t judge a book by its cover. The most annoying things people say to me are “You’re too skinny, you need to eat more” and “You look fine there’s nothing wrong with you.” I eat all the time, but my metabolism is in overdrive and my body is constantly going at 100 mph. And just because I look “fine” doesn’t mean I’m not hurting. I have to take medication every day for the rest of my life. I may never be able to have a child of my own. At least one a week I struggle with the symptoms of my condition. But I don’t allow this to defeat me. I want the attendees to feel inspired and say “Wow, I can do anything I put my mind to in spite of what my obstacles are.”
What advice would you give to young people who want to become advocates and raise awareness about certain diseases or issues?
I would say do it and don’t be afraid to be truthful in what you have experienced. It’s difficult opening up and sharing your story because people always judge and someone will always find something negative to say, but it’s your journey and story. You never know who you may be helping through sharing your story or sharing your gifts of song and poetry or whatever your passion is. There is only one you so even when you feel like there are a million people doing this same type of thing or talking about this same issue, it doesn’t matter because no one has a story identical to yours.
Who or what has been your biggest inspiration?
My grandmother and my godmother are by far my greatest inspirations. My grandmother is a strong woman of faith and she never lets that waiver. She is loving and has dealt with adversity in the most beautiful of ways. My godmother was the one who always pushed me to chase my dreams. She gave me the confidence I needed to become a woman. She always told me I could do anything; she always reassured me that I was beautiful and kept me encouraged and in prayer. Both women have inspired me in every area of my life.
Inspired 4 Change is an event created to inspire, spread awareness and showcase talent. The event will feature local DMV poets, musicians and singers all coming together to display their talents for a great cause. All proceeds from ticket sales will go the American Thyroid Association to further research and support for Graves Disease. To purchase your ticket to Inspired 4 Change, click here and visit @Inspired_4_Change on Instagram to learn more.