Teen inspires others during battle with lupus

Kendall has stayed strong , inspiring all around her.

Fifteen-year-old Kendall Tanner has always been very active in sports– volleyball, softball, and powerlifting–but that has all come to a halt since her reaction to a concussion in volleyball led to a diagnosis of an underlying disease. But she won’t let it keep her down. While she can’t go out there on the court right now, Tanner is still a very big part of the team and inspires all around her.
Head Softball Coach Tara Cortinas states, “Kendall is the first one to practice and always there to help with anything we need. She is a great teammate, and it makes me happy to see her in such high spirits in the face of such adversity. I think we all admire her because she doesn’t shut down, she doesn’t give up.”
Her mother Jenny Wolff explains how the diagnosis unfolded, “Over the last year and a half Kendall has sustained multiple injuries, including two facial (mouth/teeth) injuries during softball, and two concussions during volleyball season. The last concussion occurred this past August in which the following days/weeks she started having swelling of her eye and face.”
“After the last concussion, she would have swelling every week of her eye and face. We went to several doctors and each one would treat as if she had an eye infection but couldn’t explain its consistency. She was put on different meds and eye drops but nothing worked. She had massive headaches as well. The last doctor did the same thing, except this time he decided to do blood work. It came back abnormal and that’s when he referred her to the oncologist. This doctor then did extensive blood work, ultrasounds on all organs, MRI, and other diagnostic tests. The blood work came back showing her ANA (antibodies) at a high level. He repeated these labs multiple times and they have gotten higher throughout this process. The whole time we (family and friends) were sure it was all from the concussion. Little did we know it was this underlying disease.”
After three months of seeing multiple doctors and multiple tests, Tanner was given the diagnosis of Lupus (sle), her mom said.
“At this time we were told that she would no longer be able to participate in any sports until further notice. This news devastated her as her love and dedication for her sports and activities is endless,” Wolff adds. “The concussion is not related to the Lupus, but is how we ended up finding out about it.”
However, throughout this entire situation, Kendall’s family has admired the way she has held strong to her faith, love, and determination. She has continued to be a part of every team as a manager. She also is in FFA where she showed a pig this year and is part of the poultry team. She also plays in the Natalia Mustang Band.
After the diagnosis, Kendall went through more tests and more medications but none were working. The doctor then made the decision to start her on chemotherapy (by mouth). She takes 8 pills once a week for 3 months.
“When we were told she would start chemo that was a very scary and confusing day for us,” Wolff said. “We didn’t know what to expect nor did we know how to react. The first week was terrible for her… the side effects hit with a bang and the massive headaches and nausea set in. Yet she continued to make sure she was there for both of her teams (powerlifting and softball). At the end of the week she realized her body was shutting down and she needed a break. She agreed to take a week off of everything to get some much needed rest. Of course a couple days in, she was ready to get back at it. She started back with everything a week later, proving her dedication time and time again.”
“I took this very hard as a mother because I can’t fix it, and that is a very hard pill to swallow. But I’ve learned from her, through her strength and her faith, that it’s God’s will, and no matter what she will be ok. Her words to me were so inspiring…. she said ‘I do not want this to define who I am, I don’t want to be that girl…. I want to be the one that overcomes and shows others what it means to have faith.’ That was so very powerful coming from my 15 year old angel!”
“We are hopeful the chemo and steroids work so she can go into remission soon, but only time will tell. Until then, we remain positive and I know with her inspiration will help others who battle anything.”
Because symptoms vary so much person to person, this autoimmune disease can take years to diagnose in many cases. Wolff shares what she has learned about the disease, and states that she learns more every day.
“Lupus is an autoimmune disease that typically attacks the nervous system and/or different organs. For Kendall lupus has set in on her orbital cavities, and the goal is to get it under control so she doesn’t have any more flare up, and eventually it could leave her blind. It’s a fairly aggressive autoimmune disorder that can hit anyone at anytime. From what I’ve seen it can be debilitating but also with the right doctor and right regiment of medications, a lot of cases go into remission. Some take more time than the others, but there is hope to overcome and live a normal life. We are very blessed though, it could be so much worse. We see it every time we go to her doctor and see the cancer patients. I’m still learning about lupus and there is a lot I learn daily. I’ve joined a lupus support group on Facebook and that has been a godsend for information and simply for comfort,” Wolff adds.
“I would call lupus the silent disease… you wouldn’t know with most people who have it because on the outside they may look fine,” Wolff added. “The doctor said there is high hope that catching Kendall’s case early will lead to a better outcome.”