Lakeland teen recognized for strength in fighting rare skin disease

By Stephanie Claytor, Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, July 17, 2017, 4:56 PM EDT

A Lakeland teen is being recognized nationally for her perseverance in fighting a rare disease that attacks the skin and internal organs.

The Scleroderma Foundation gave Taylor Brown a scholarship so that she and her family could attend the National Patient Education Conference from July 21-23.

Brown was diagnosed with scleroderma in 2014. It’s a rare autoimmune disease that attacks the skin, internal organs and joints.

“In 2014, my life changed forever,” Taylor Brown told her congregation at Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church, as she described the disease and what she has been going through the last three years.

“It’s really a fancy way of saying that your body is attacking itself,” Brown explained to the crowd.

“Doctors say that there is no cure. I am determined to fight back and stay healthy," said Brown. 

Brown and her mother are working to spread awareness about the disease by creating the foundation “Taylor’s Journey.”

Her mother TaMetress Reed said it’s important people learn about the disease so they can detect it in its early stages.

“I think it’s important to get it out because they told me had Taylor, had they diagnosed her when she was younger, they probably could’ve prevented some of the scarring that has happened to her face,” said TaMetress Reed.

"Doctors say that there is no cure. I am determined to fight back and stay healthy." - Taylor Brown

In Brown’s case, Reed said she noticed the scar on her face when she was two, but doctors didn’t know what it was.

“The dermatologist said it was a birthmark. The neurologist said they couldn’t find anything with her nerves,” TaMetress Reed recalled.

Years went by and the pain and the scar got worse.

“I was having headaches, a lot of nose bleeds, joint pain in my knees. One of the symptoms, they found out I couldn’t stretch one of my arms out as far as the other,” Brown recalled.

Brown said along with the pain, she had to deal with bullying at school after being diagnosed with the disease.

“At first I cried, and then I blocked out the negativity,” Brown recalled.

Brown said she’s taking weekly injections of chemotherapy medication along with other medications and she said its making her feel better.

“I learned that you have to stay strong, and positive, and be healthy," Brown said.

Now, she and her mother are hoping the National Patient Education Conference will inform them of the latest treatments, so she can prevent the disease from spreading all over her body.

More information can be found here: http://www.scleroderma.org/site/PageNavigator/patients_whatis.html#.WWvo6GPGLww