Diagnosed with Lupus at age 31 and Fibromyalgia at 33


Lauren Lee Johnson

Simple tasks that became impossible because of rheumatic disease:

  • Going to the amusement park with her daughter
  • Driving to work
  • Running to stay fit


Lauren was 31-years old when she was officially diagnosed with lupus after 10 years of misunderstood symptoms. Two years later, Lauren received her second diagnosis of fibromyalgia. As a thriving professional, wife and mother to a beautiful 11-year-old daughter, Lauren fights to manage her symptoms each day and embrace moments of joy amid the pain.

Lauren’s Story: A lot of changes for one year

Turning 31 years’ old was a big year for Lauren: she got married, moved from Michigan to Georgia with her husband and daughter and started a dream job at CNN, but her health problems followed her across state lines. For 10 years, Lauren’s primary care physicians were stumped by her symptoms. At one point, they thought she had leukemia and treated it with steroids, but nothing was helping. When she arrived in Georgia, Lauren’s new doctor referred her to an internist who suspected lupus and referred her to her first rheumatologist.

After receiving her official lupus diagnosis, it took testing multiple treatments before Lauren finally was able to manage her symptoms. This roller coaster of treatments required Lauren to take a two-month medical leave within her first year of work, and she worried about how her health was affecting her career. Two years later, Lauren received a second diagnosis of fibromyalgia, and now works daily to find balance between her health struggles and her personal and professional goals. Lauren puts on a brave face for her 11-year-old daughter, whose aunt died from lupus, so the reality of the disease is all too real. In order to manage her symptoms and be there for her daughter, Lauren has relied on her rheumatologist and team of doctors to understand that she’s not just complaining, her pain level is real and requires treatment. Her daughter now wants to become a doctor after watching her mom deal with difficult health issues.

Finding balance in a world turned upside down

Lauren’s whole world tilted after her diagnosis. She used to travel with friends and go out after work. Now, she has to say no because her immune system is weaker and she may get sick while traveling or tired while hanging out. She used to go to the park and play with her daughter, but now she has to sit in the shade and watch from afar. She used to run four miles a day, but now she can’t cope with the pain. Some days, Lauren feels like she’s become a whole other person and she’s simply watching that person go through life, rather than living it herself.

But Lauren knows the importance of sharing her story, and she uses her position as an associate producer at CNN to educate others on what having lupus is really like. In an op-ed on CNN.com, Lauren shared her personal experience with the disease, after interviewing Nick Cannon about his lupus and deciding it was time to publicly share her story. She relates to other patients and talks to them like a friend, explaining that lupus is like doing a “two-a-day workout every single day while having the flu.” Hearing from another “normal” person with lupus has really resonated with her readers and helped Lauren find even more supporters as she lives with her disease.

Lauren’s Window of Opportunity: Using her voice to spread awareness on the realities of lupus

Lauren hopes her story will open more eyes to what it’s really like to live with a rheumatic disease. She wants to connect with others who are fighting the same diseases, letting them know they are not alone and to fight for treatment. She wants other patients to know there are good days and there are bad days, but they can learn to manage their rheumatic diseases and push through to a better life.

Lauren is a mother, wife and young professional living with lupus and fibromyalgia and she’s determined to create a better tomorrow for others with similar diagnoses. Through research and education, Lauren hopes rheumatologists will find a way to better manage the symptoms of lupus and other rheumatic diseases.