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Behind the Brand: Managing Lupus, Dealing with Business


Tracey among flowers

Did you know that lupus affects more than 5 million people worldwide, with 90% of those being women?


It's a startling statistic, yet lupus remains one of the most misunderstood and underrecognized autoimmune diseases out there.


Imagine running a business while your body wages an internal war against itself. That's the reality for many individuals like Tracey Fowlkes, the woman behind KK&S Designs. 


Tracey's story is not just about building a brand, it's about conquering challenges that most of us can't even fathom.


For this World Lupus Day, we want to honor the people who battle with Lupus every day of their lives while making the most out of them一especially those who manage a business even with the condition.


Learn more about what they go through and get inspiration into people like Tracey’s journey一the highs, the lows, and everything in between having lupus and running a business.


What is Lupus?


Our immune system is the superhero of our body. Its job is to protect us from invaders like bacteria and viruses. But what happens when this superhero gets a little trigger-happy and starts attacking our own cells and tissues? That's Lupus.


Lupus is an autoimmune disease, meaning your immune system goes haywire and mistakenly attacks healthy tissues. 


It is also a sneaky little bugger. It can take shape in many other conditions making it notoriously difficult to diagnose. One day, you might wake up with joint pain and stiffness, thinking it's just a case of Mondays. The next, you're battling a mysterious rash that refuses to budge.


Simply put, it's a complex autoimmune disease where the body's immune system attacks its tissues and organs. It's like your body turning against you, causing a myriad of symptoms ranging from joint pain and fatigue to organ damage and even life-threatening complications.


Tracey Fowlkes' Battle with Lupus


Tracey's Introduction

Tracey's story is not just about battling a chronic illness, it's about defying the odds, chasing dreams, and proving that even in the face of adversity, anything is possible. Learn how despite it all, she managed to make KK&S Designs stand the test of Lupus. 


We know, there are many out there with the same condition that she has, even with the same situation of dealing with both Lupus and business, and still refuses to give up on both.


Celebrate World Lupus Day with Tracey and the resilience of entrepreneurs like her who refuse to let obstacles define how they live.


Diagnosis


On her father’s 60th birthday, she felt pain in her chest. At first, she thought it was heart burn and just brushed it away. But then, it started to spread to her back and the pain level went up a notch. 


It was a stabbing pain.


She was rushed to the hospital and was first diagnosed with pulmonary embolism, basically, a blood clot in her lungs. It all happened in December 2018.


Months passed with different tests being done on her. In July 2019, it came to a point where she couldn’t walk at all. She was under excruciating pain with tests still being done left and right. Right after, she was finally diagnosed with Lupus.


HERstory with Lupus and KK&S Designs


Tracey with a measuring stick

Upon being diagnosed with Lupus, her pains continued to press on. 2 months later, she started getting extremely sick with rash and pains all over her body. For a month, she had been going to the hospital every week, getting blood transfusions and numerous medications.


All of this happened with KK&S Designs in the picture. 


She started KK&S Designs in 2017. With the business gaining momentum in 2 years, she had to hold on. 


Just a day after being hospitalized, she had to be back on her feet with orders coming left and right. Her shop was 30 minutes away from home and the journey was filled with tears because of pain tearing through her body. All to fulfill the orders, a testament to her dedication to her craft and promise to customers. 


From then on, she accepted fewer orders not to get overwhelmed and still gave herself time to look after her health. But still, 


I decided never to give up and push through pains with KK&S Designs.


Challenges She Faced


With Lupus, pain is like a shadow. It is always lurking just behind your back, waiting to strike at any moment.


Flare-ups can happen at any time, especially when you are stressed. Well, guess how much stress managing a business can bring?


Fatigue also became a problem for Tracey because with the condition, she can get tired easily. With a business to run and orders to fulfill, it only takes so much to fill up that bar.


Fortunately, from being hospitalized, she was able to improve her health and had fewer symptoms from then on. 


Some days her feet get swollen so she cannot wear shoes or wake up tired all of a sudden. Her skin has gotten thin to the point where she cannot put anything on her fingernails and her hair texture has changed over time. 


But I decided to work her way around these limitations.


Keeping KK&S Designs afloat requires a lot of work, hands-on attention, and dedication. Even when there are days that her hands are in pain, she still has to pick up that material and put a signage together.  


Because I enjoy what I do and my goal is to help propel other businesses forward.


Be it a small business, one cake topper, or a large order from a company, she accommodates all because she wants them to realize their goals and dreams into reality. 


Even when it comes to a point where I’m sick and have to fulfill an order, I’ll get back on my feet because people are depending on me to make a celebration special or a business a step further.


Tracey's Pieces of Advice


Tracey's portrait

  1. Stick to Business Hours.


Set definite business hours for when you work and answer your phone for any inquiries and orders. Do proper time management, have some time for yourself, and do not dedicate most if not all of your 24 hours to the business.


2. Don’t neglect your health.


Tracey’s journey has taught her the hard way that neglecting your well-being is a recipe for disaster. Whether it's taking regular breaks, staying hydrated, or getting enough sleep, prioritize self-care. After all, a healthy entrepreneur is a successful entrepreneur.


3. Listen to your doctor.


Your doctor isn't just a medical professional, they're your partner in managing your condition. So, listen to their advice, attend regular check-ups, and communicate openly about any concerns or changes in your health. Remember, your well-being is non-negotiable, and listening to your doctor could be the difference between thriving and merely surviving.


4. Go to the gym.


Tracey swears by the power of hitting the gym, not just for physical health but for clearing her mind and reducing stress level. Whether it's a brisk walk, a yoga session, or lifting weights, find an activity that rejuvenates both your body and soul. 


Perspective of an Entrepreneur with Lupus


Tracey has learned the importance of prioritizing workloads and being able to attend to all her appointments. 


I managed to work on a system where I work on a few orders at a time and prioritize them based on when they need to go out.


She has learned to listen to her body and respond accordingly when she feels something and rest or take medication.


Know what triggers you.


Lastly, she realized the importance of being flexible. Staying healthy and managing KK&S Designs well at the same time is possible. 


Be open to pivoting when necessary to make sure you’re healthy and that the business continues to run.

 

There are limitations to what one can do based on their condition. However, never let that tame your dreams. There are ways to work around them without sacrificing your health or your business and Tracey is a living proof of that.


Prioritizing Self-Care


Tracey in an event

Let’s be real, with the hustle of managing a business, people with Lupus often overlook taking care of themselves. But in this battle of juggling a disease and a business, self-care isn't just a luxury, it should be a mandate because it’s their lifeline.


Stress Management


Stress is the ultimate villain. It can agitate your body and immune system and cause flares. Try incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily routine. You can try:


✔10-minute meditation session

✔Calming yoga flow

✔Taking a walk in nature

✔Play with your pet


Find what helps you unwind and make it a habit. 


Healthy Habits


Your body is your temple, so treat it with care. Focus on fueling yourself with nutrient-rich foods building habits like:


✔Colorful fruits and veggies

✔Whole grains 

✔Lean proteins

✔Stay hydrated

✔Good night's sleep of 7-9 hours


Support Network


Surround yourself with a diverse and supportive community. Whether it's friends, family, or fellow entrepreneurs, having people who understand and uplift you is invaluable. Don't hesitate to lean on them for support when you need it most. Together, you're stronger.


Set Boundaries


As a business owner, it's easy to fall into the trap of overcommitting. But remember, your health comes first. Learn to set boundaries and say no when necessary. Delegate tasks, prioritize your well-being, and don't be afraid to ask for help. 


Happy World Lupus Day!


Let Tracey and other people who made success even with Lupus be a reminder for everyone that dreams know no bounds.


KK&S Designs, the business she once put up became a brand that helps other businesses make a brand of their own and make celebrations extra special with decors and creative solutions.


Through her journey, she has pushed through challenges, defied stereotypes, and proven that living with lupus does not define one's potential for success. 




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