Shirley Alvarez was born in Queens, New York. For the first few years of her life, her family described her as a ball of energy, always active and dancing.
But at the age of 9, Shirley was diagnosed with systemic scleroderma, a rare autoimmune disease that hardens soft tissue throughout the body and can affect the entire body. The condition progressed rapidly.
Within weeks, Shirley went from using a walker to relying on a wheelchair full-time. Her skin hardened, like porcelain, to the point it began turning her into a “living doll.”
This was her lowest point. She felt nothing but pity for herself. “I remember sitting in a chair, I was very exhausted, and I looked at myself in front of a mirror, and I asked, why me? Like, why is this happening? What did I do to deserve this?” she told Barcroft TV.
Minutes later, Shirley decided to stop with the pity. From that moment on, she not only accepted her disease but embraced it in a completely unexpected way.
“I always felt like I was trapped, my soul was trapped in a foreign body, and so I thought a doll was the best concept of expressing how I feel living with scleroderma. I might be a little fragile-looking, I might have porcelain-like skin, but I feel like there’s this immense strength within myself, and I want to try and project that.”
Now, at 27 years old, Shirley has created a new persona for herself that has restored her sense of confidence. It’s quite inspiring to see what she’s “turned herself into.”
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