Growing up, many little girls and sometimes little boys played with dolls. Although many of may have secretly dreamed of living in a doll’s world, not many of us would actually like it if it happened. Well, one little girl had no idea that one day she would grow up into an actual living doll. Shirley Alvarez has turned into a human doll and she has an incredible story to tell!
20. A Change
Shirley Alvarez is a Queens native whose life would drastically change when she was only nine. At such a young age, Shirley began to notice that something strange was happening to her skin. Her skin was beginning to harden and turned to porcelain.
19. Energetic Kid
Growing up, Shirley had always been an energetic and active kid. Her sister Tiffany described as “a ball of energy” and the little girl would always love to play and dance around. However, all of that began to change when Shirley noticed something happening to her skin.
18. Rare Condition
When Shirley was nine she began to notice that her skin was beginning to harden and turn into a porcelain texture. Her mother quickly brought her to the doctor where they diagnosed her with a rare condition known as systemic scleroderma, which causes soft tissue to solidify. Soon, Shirley’s entire life would change drastically.
17. The Condition
The condition causes the body’s cell to produce an excessive amount of collagen as if it were in the process of healing an injury. This excess of collagen causes the skin to harden and can actually prevent organs from working to their optimal way. Although the condition is quite rare it effects around 1 in 5,000 people.
Along with hardening the skin, the condition creates a multitude of symptoms with it. Sufferers will often lose their hair, experience a lot of fatigue and weight loss, and also deal with joint pan and swollen fingers and toes. The hardened skin also limits mobility, a lot.
15. Complex Disease
Shirley is now 27 and has been dealing with the condition for quite a while. “It’s a very complex disease that affects the connective tissues and it makes the skin very hard, like stone, from the inside out,” she explained. Life would never be the same for Shirley…
14. Limited Mobility
It was an incredibly hard transition for Shirley to undergo. She went from being a highly active child to one whose mobility was incredibly limited. In just a short span of time she could no longer walk around without a walking aid and she was soon confined to a wheelchair.
13. Fast Progression
“The progression was so fast [that] it happened in a matter of weeks. It was very traumatizing going from a child that was independent and dancing, to all of a sudden needing so much help getting dressed in the morning, [with] feeding yourself, [and] without the ability to really dance anymore.”
12. Feeling Trapped
Although Shirley has explained that her condition isn’t painful, it is frustrating to have her mobility be so limited. Along with limited mobility, Shirley has often stated that her condition has impacted her the most psychologically. She says that she sometimes feels trapped in her own body.
11. Why Me?
“I remember sitting in a chair, I was exhausted. I looked at myself in a mirror and I asked ‘Why me? Like, why is this happening? What did I do to deserve this?’ And I just felt pity for myself.” However, it was at that moment that Shirley came to a realization that would change her life forever.
10. Different Mindset
“[But] after a few minutes I was like, ‘You know what? I’m gonna snap out of it,’” Shirley explained. “From that day forward I changed my mentality. I just started to think positively and go with it and make the most out of every day.”
9. Discovering Her Passions
When she got to her teenage years, Shirley began to discover her passions that helped her cope with her condition. “When I was about 16 years old I discovered goth. It matched my style, [and] it matched my personality.” This discovery helped Shirley cope in the best way ever.
8. Art Form
“I look at fashion as an art form; I like to express myself with fashion. It taught me a lot with my confidence,” Shirley explained. Shirley realized as a teenager that her condition was never going to disappear. So instead of feeling sorry for herself she found more positive and creative outlets to cope.
7. Dancing Again
“I didn’t think I could dance or move that same way again,” Shirley told Barcroft TV. “But I decided to embrace my limitations, even use my chair as a prop. I began dancing with my sister without any fear.” With her new mindset, Shirley didn’t feel as confined anymore.
6. Alter Ego
Through her love of art and creative expression, Shirley came up with the alter ego “The Tragic Doll.” Through her alter ego, Shirley is able to express herself freely in a variety of ways. This has helped her in so many ways!
5. Bringing Awareness
“I always felt like I was trapped,” Shirley explained to Barcroft TV. “[I felt like] my soul was trapped in a foreign body. So I thought a doll was the best concept of expressing how I feel living with scleroderma.” Through her alter ego she has been able to raise a lot of awareness to the condition.
“I might be fragile-looking, I might have porcelain-like skin. But I feel like there’s this immense strength within myself and I want to try to project that.” Through her strength and perseverance, Shirley has served as a constant inspiration to her sister.
3. Sister Bond
Tiffany described their relationship to Barcroft TV. She explained that the two of them were always together growing up and always dancing and having fun. “We were always together. She’s always been dancing, always been a ball of energy,” Tiffany said. She is happy that her sister’s energy has not been taken away due to the condition.
2. Big Influence
“[Shirley] influences me a lot with all these things. She is a wild thing, she’s rebellious. She is an amazing person,” Tiffany explained. Shirley is so grateful that she was able to discover a passion that gives her a new outlook on life. Through her alter ego and creativity she has managed to flourish greatly.
“I think I’ve gone through the worst in my life, anything else is just microscopic,” Shirley explained. “I think when you have pain it’s only going to build character, build your strength. Life will never be perfect. Over the years, I think The Tragic Doll helped me find a way to be more confident in my own skin and accepting that there is alternative beauty.”