The painful disease Lupus hasn't held 16-year-old Andrea Y. Forde back.
At the June 7 commencement for Edgewood High School, she'll bethe class valedictorian and, despite undergoing chemotherapy and missing many days of school, the young woman has managed to earn a 3.9 grade-point average. You can also catch her playing the violin in the school orchestra and helping to run the school science club.
"I just try and keep in mind what's important," she said, when asked how she managed to get such high grades while suffering from a degenerative disease of the kidney.
It's been about two years since Andrea was stricken with the disease. Back in November 1988, Andrea recalls, she felt sick. Her skin was puffy due to water-weight gain. She was taken to the Franklin Square Hospital emergency room. "I looked so bad that this little boy pointed his finger at me and started crying."
There, doctors determined that she had Lupus and that the disease was causing her immune system to attack her kidneys, causing her to retain water and feel weak. Doctors told her she would always have Lupus and warned the disease could attack any vital organ. "It could attack anywhere," she said. "It's like I'm allergic to myself."
But Andrea did not allow the prognosis to get her down.
"Once they put a name on it and decided they were going to do something aboutit, I felt better," she said, "relieved."
In addition to medication, the student has chemotherapy treatments once every three months. Chemotherapy makes her nauseous and unable to attend school for at least one day after the treatment. But Andrea credits the chemotherapy for saving her kidneys, which she says are now operating almost as well as before she started feeling sick.
Keeping up with her schoolwork is very important to the student. She said she always made sure she contacted classmates and teachers to stay on top of things even when she was too sick to go to school.
Andrea found out that her hard work had paid off when she recently learned that she had earned thehighest marks in her class.
"My friends have been saying all yearlong that I had it in the bag," she said, referring to the valedictorian honor. "But I wasn't so sure."
Edgewood High biology teacher John Low describes Andrea this way: "She has an inquiring mind, perseverance, and no lack of self-discipline. She's intelligent and she knows it, but she doesn't flaunt her abilities."
The student's favorite classes are the sciences. She plans to major in biology when she begins at Johns Hopkins University in the fall. As for long-term goals, she hopes to pursue a career in medicine and become a pediatrician.
She's not just a bookworm. She is president of the Science Club,a member of the Student Government Association, the International Club and the Academic Club, and a violinist in the school orchestra.
She said her parents, Lois and Leroy, gave her the support and encouragement to succeed in school. Andrea says the story her father tellsabout the first time she ever went to school holds true of her attitude today.
"My dad told me on the first day of school when everybody else was crying and didn't want to go, I just hopped on the bus and said, 'Bye, Daddy.' "