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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Jessica Fong: Turning pain into passion


Jessica Fong uses her passion for graphic design and painting to bring her closer to her artistic dreams. The hoodie she is wearing displays one of many designs she has created. Phoenix Kanada | Photo Editor | [email protected]

Jessica Fong: Turning pain into passion

Cassandra Ng

Guest Writer

[email protected]


Jessica Fong’s room is that of a true artist’s: paint splatters and a half-finished mural cover one wall, art supplies and makeup litter every surface and a string of color-changing fairy lights line one quarter of the ceiling. Printed pictures and Polaroids are scattered all over the walls along with funky hats and jackets. Amid the colorful and seemingly happy décor, something darker dwells.

After contracting meningitis twice, Fong was diagnosed with systemic lupus one year ago. It is highly unusual to contract meningitis more than once so the doctors knew immediately something was wrong.

The chronic autoimmune disease causes the body to lose its ability to differentiate between harmful invaders that cause sickness and healthy body tissue. As a result, it causes inflammation, fatigue, pain and damage in various parts of the body. There is currently no cure for lupus.

“Lupus causes joint pain,” Fong says. “Sometimes I’ll wake up and I can’t move my body.”

Though the symptoms and side effects take a huge toll on her mental and physical health, the 19-year-old City College graphic design student doesn’t let this stop her from doing the things she loves.

Along with severe joint pain, Fong also experiences anemia, butterfly rashes, bipolar disorder and depression as side effects of having lupus. She also has a low red blood cell count, so if she bleeds, it’s hard to make it stop. She has to wait longer than usual before she takes off the bandages after getting her blood drawn.
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The medication for lupus is an immune system suppressant which makes it easier for her to get sick. Being anemic means she must bundle up, sometimes in up to five layers, she says. Even then, she has a tendency to get cold and get sick as a result. Her mental health issues put a strain on her motivation, but Fong says antidepressants have helped. She says she’s pushing herself to do her best and live life to the fullest.

Regardless of her condition, Fong has big dreams. She started out making art using physical mediums in high school and still paints often. She has now found a passion in creating logos and designs with Photoshop. Her art has been displayed at school shows and she’s created logos that have been printed on shirts and hoodies. Her abstract and often whimsical art style makes her pieces stand out, reflecting  her evidently creative personality. Fong’s goal is to get an art degree with an emphasis in graphic design after transferring to San Jose State University. She hopes to go into advertising.

Fong also like to express herself through fashion. Her wardrobe is full of vintage T-shirts, fuzzy jackets, funky shoes and jewelry. She’s dyed her hair blonde, black, green and now blue, often sporting  colorful makeup to match. She finds joy in shopping for new and used clothes as well as creating her own by cutting, dying and making designs on Photoshop.

“There are some people that live their lives each day thinking about what they can do to make themselves happy,” says Fong’s older sister Stacey Fong. “And then there’s Jessica. She doesn’t let this illness change that. I think we can all be a little more like her.”

Some days are harder than others, but Fong pushes through. In addition to taking college classes, Fong works part-time at Quickly’s. She spends as much time as she can going out with friends between her scheduled doctor’s appointments. Though her motivation is sometimes stunted, she shoots for her goals with gusto.

“There’s a lot of things we can learn from Jessica,” says Fong’s friend Koshoua Vang. “She doesn’t let anything stop her, whether it be her illness or any other roadblock.”

“She always has a way to push forward.”

It’s been a difficult year for Fong but she feels she’s handled her diagnosis and all that it’s thrown at her with grace and a level head. Having the disease has given her a new outlook on life.

“Without lupus,” she says, “Life would be pretty boring.”



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