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Testimony: Lumidee

Young Dance Star Recounts Her Fight with Rheumatoid Arthritis

As told to Angela Bronner, AOL Black Voices

Testimony: Lumidee

TVT Records

Lumidee's new album drops April 17th.

Many know Lumidee (nee Lumidee Cedeno) from her 2003 mega hit, 'Never Leave You (Uh Oooh, Uh Oooh),' the infectious anthem she dropped at the tender age of 19.

What many didn't know was that Lumidee had just had two hip replacements because of Rheumatoid Arthritis, which was diagnosed when she was 14. RA, an autoimmune disorder, is the leading cause of disability in the country.

The Spanish Harlem native, whose latest album, 'Unexpected' debuts April 17, is Youth Ambassador of the 2007 Arthritis Walk. She shares her Testimony with Black Voices.

It was definitely tough for me. I was starting high school. I did like the first three months of high school but I couldn't take it because it started taking a toll on me really quick.

I had gotten a rash on my legs. It was like little patches; almost like an irritation from a detergent. Then my wrist was a little bit cramped up and my ankles. But I didn't really think much of it. I went to the doctor to find out about the rash and didn't mention I was cramped up. So they said, maybe this is just an allergic reaction. But my bones started hurting me and I started to get cramped up, so I went back and told them about it. They thought it was lupus because the rash and the symptoms were like Lupus. I did the test and it came back negative. As more time passed they realized it was Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Being that I was so young, I really didn't know much about it and my family didn't believe me, so they thought I was trying to get out of school. My grandmother -- she's old school -- she thought I was lying because it was something they couldn't physically see. [They began to believe me when] they started seeing my body getting swelled up and the joints changing. And they had to believe it. I went through that with my family, so it was pretty tough.

When I was younger, I was pretty naïve. I didn't have money, my family didn't have money and my medication was like $400 a month and even more. Basically I was living off of social security benefits from my deceased father, and I would just blow it on clothes and sneakers. I was young, and I wasn't worried about medication. And that's what made it worse for me. It was because of that, I had to get the hip replacements early -- four and half years after I was diagnosed, so I was turning 19.

Basically, I'm telling my story now because I think it's important; because it had a lot to do with my career. Because when I was diagnosed with it, I was so depressed. I was home for like a year straight. I didn't really go outside. It was physically hard for me to move around. And being so young, and being so used to hanging out, I felt embarrassed. The way I was walking and I couldn't even open my hands. They were cramped up almost like a claw. I walked really badly. I was basically homebound for a while.

Having the home instruction for three years and not being able to hang out and be active, I started writing poetry. And from my writing poetry, and writing my feelings down, I started writing songs. And I had nothing else to do but dream. I had this goal. I'm writing my songs. I always wanted to do music, but once I realized I had the writing talent, I knew I could go all the way with this. So that's basically what got me through it, having that goal.

I think it's an inspirational story for people because sometimes it makes you want to give up. Having Rheumatoid Arthritis or having any sickness or disease that you have no control over, [you can't] let it put a stop to what you're doing. Don't be a prisoner to it. You can still have goals and reach them. It doesn't matter how big your goals are. A lot of people don't realize that young people have this. People are actually being born with this. It's something that people should know about and the awareness should be set because I had to struggle with my family believing me.

I had to hide it my first time around and I don't want to hide nothing now. When I first came out, they thought it would scare off the labels or I'd be sick or that I wouldn't be able to make it to shows. So in the beginning, they just gave me a little story: 'If they ask you why you walk like that, it's because you fell off a motorcycle. You had an accident.' I really wasn't comfortable with it, but I really didn't know what was expected of me and if this is what it takes me to do my music, then fine. But I wound up telling them in the end, that I'm not perfect and you don't have to be perfect.

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