ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - After nearly a decade of struggling with Lupus, Antonette Currie is finally making peace with how the autoimmune disorder has changed her face, and altered the course of her life.
"I felt like I was ugly," Currie remembers. "I felt like nobody would talk to me. I felt like people are staring at me, like, "What is this on her face?'"
In 2007, Currie, who is now 33, was working as a part-time model, when her hair began falling out, and she felt so tired, it was hard to function.
That's when she was diagnosed.
"I had no clue, I had no clue what Lupus was, had never even heard of it," Currie says.
By 2013, Currie quit modeling, after the disorder began leaving deep scarring on her cheeks.
Currie has a rare, particularly severe form of the autoimmune disorder, lupus panniculitis.
It began attacking and destroying the collagen and fatty tissue under her skin,
leaving deep ridges in her skin no amount of makeup could hide.
"It was devastating," Currie says.
Dr. Mohammad Kamran, a WellStar Atlanta rheumatologist, says lupus hits young women, especially African American women like Antonette, especially hard, affecting their skin, joints and organs.
Women of color are 2 to 3 times more likely to battle lupus than Caucasian women.
"It's a challenge," Dr. Kamran says. "It's a challenge, because, these patients are very young, the disease is so complex, and the medications can be very toxic. So you have to be keeping in mind multiple aspects of that."
The changes in her appearance and the health issues she was facing, sent Currie into a two-year long depression.
"It was a lot, everything that I went through," she says. "Because this is not my natural face. So, to lose the fat in my face and to now have and to now have this huge scar on my face, it was just something I had to grasp."
She is getting there, hoping to turn her ordeal into her "testimony."
Currie is now involved in lupus outreach and support programs, working to teach women the warning signs of lupus, like the butterfly rash on the face, the joint pain and the fatigue.
She's also started her own business.
The flare-ups in her disorder still hit her hard.
In March of 2018, Currie was hospitalized with pulmonary embolism, or blood clot in her lungs.
She needed blood transfusions, dropping to just 103 pounds.
Then, on top of everything, she caught the flu in the hospital.
"It was hard," Currie says, her voice choking with emotion. "Because you know what the end result was going to be. And nobody thought you were going to be here. But you're still here. And there's a reason why I'm still here. God left me hear for a reason. I think this is it."
Because today, Currie feels stronger than she's ever been.
"I say, 'This is my beauty scar,'" she says, pointing to her cheeks.
"I think, where I am now, I'm in a good place, physically, mentally and emotionally," Currie smiles. "I'm in a good place."
To learn more about lupus, visit https://www.usinlupus.com/index.html