Meet Stella-Bella

By Tina Cameron

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A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a cute little white dog named Stella on a rescue site. I have been wanting another dog. I thought having another little dog would help my Yorkie (Peyton) with her grieving over the loss of my sweet Haley who crossed over the Rainbow Bridge last June. I had previously seen this dog, but never inquired about her. When I stumbled across her again, I felt like it was a sign. Stella is a Maltese-Yorkie mix, is 8 ½ years old, timid, and so wants to trust people. She is just the sweetest dog ever.

I sent in an application and days later had a phone interview. A few days after my phone interview, the foster mom called me and we spoke about 90 minutes on the phone about Stella, my home life, my pets, etc. It was so sad to hear that she had been neglected, abused, adopted and returned. I agreed to foster her as a trial basis for 10 days and would pick her up on January 7th. She immediately jumped in my SUV, laid down on the blanket I had put in the backseat and went to sleep. After meeting my two other dogs, they all went out in the backyard to potty. She seemed comfortable right away in my backyard and so far, was getting along with my other two dogs.

20200107_133255Once Stella came in, I went to eat lunch in the den. She came right in the den and got up in the same spot where Peyton sleeps. She proceeded to take a nap and I snapped a picture. Due to the neglect and abuse Stella endured, as well as some health problems, she is hesitant to trust a human. It is still a work in progress; however, she is making great strides in doing new things each day. I ended up adopting Stella on day five of fostering her, because I was already in love. Later that night, I snapped a few pictures of her “gotcha day” sign to post on Facebook and she leaned over and licked my cheek! Oh, those sweet puppy kisses. She is slowly coming to me when I call her and did well at her first follow up vet appointment. I am so happy that I chose to adopt her. Let the spoiling begin.

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Finding Our Footing Through Grief

By Lisa Weatherford

Hi everyone!  I know, I just kind of vanished for a while, but as I sit here writing this, I am reflecting on a very busy year!

Let me take a moment to update everyone. Dad

Dad is still on hospice.  He has lost so much weight.  He is down to 130 pounds.  He is now having his meals in the back dining room.  I know how that sounds, but in this dining room it is quiet, and he gets the extra help he needs at meal time.  He also gets more finger food items because he no longer understands what utensils are or how to use them.  It is hard to get him to eat a full meal most of the time now. Dad is falling a lot and he often just mumbles or doesn’t know who we are.  His doctor tells us that he feels dad has weeks left at this point. So, with all of this information, every time the phone rings we can’t help but think is this THE call.

 

We have had lots of firsts without Mom. Celebrations like her first birthday, Mother’s Day, and Christmas have been difficult. I didn’t even put up any Christmas decorations this year.

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If we are being honest, our family is still in the grieving process. Sometimes you feel like you’re in a good place in life and moving along without any hiccups. Suddenly, something will come along and bring Mom’s memory back into focus.  The only thing you can do is just go with it.  Let the tears flow and just remember.

I decided to end my career as a Surgical Technologist during the summer.  I scrubbed for 17 years.  Lately, I have been working at Starbucks, which is very different. Sadly, I’ve been out of work since November 11th due to a fracture of my fibula in the ankle area.  That has been painful, but it didn’t require surgery nor a cast. I’m just in an ankle brace and I go back for a follow up this month.

The New Year will be full of its own share of excitement and disappointments.  Yet, we will do what we always do; rally together and get through the hard times and celebrate the good times.

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So much has changed that I’m not sure if I’ll blog again soon or not.  I’m at a point that I feel my blog is about grief and sadness.  I feel like I’m blogging the same topics over and over.  If you wish for me to continue or have an idea for a new topic, let me know in the comments.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

-Lisa

Good News and Encouragement for Gluten Sensitive People

By Rachel Sircy

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Well, 2020 may be the best year we gluten sensitive people have had yet. According to an email I recently received from Celiac Foundation CEO Marilyn Geller, President Trump has passed a budget resolution which directs the National Institutes of Health to devote resources to researching the underlying cause of celiac disease and to work toward finding a cure. 

This means that those suffering with celiac and gluten intolerance are finally being taken seriously! We may soon have answers to all of our unanswered questions about why we’re gluten intolerant in the first place. And, best of all, we may soon see a cure!! 

If you are new to gluten free living, the good news is that things should soon be changing for the better. Celiac disease itself may one day be a thing of the past. 

With all of that in mind, I’m heading into the new year with renewed energy and hope for the future. I hope this is encouraging to all of you reading out there as well. God bless and Happy New Year!

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Meet Kaitlyn: A Riverbanks Zoo Ambassador

By Tina Cameron

tinapicsFor the past few months I have been volunteering in the Ambassador building at the zoo. I have been working with a zookeeper named Kaitlyn. She is an amazing ambassador for Riverbanks Zoo. She was nice enough to answer my questions for the blog. I hope everyone enjoys reading about her.

Kaitlyn is 25 years old and has moved around a lot around the east coast and the Midwest but calls Wisconsin home. She has a younger, sister, her parents, and a dog. Her parents live in Wisconsin, but the family dog Taz, lives in Pennsylvania with her sister.

She chose zookeeping because, she has always had a passion for all animals and grew uptinapic5 going to the Jacksonville Zoo regularly. Her dream in high school was to work with animals, but she wasn’t sure what exactly she wanted to do. While attending The University of Wisconsin-Platteville, she had the opportunity to intern with the local aquarium and fell in love with the idea of zookeeping. She knew she not only wanted to take care of the animals, but to educate everyone on the importance of all animals, build homes for animals that are forever improving, and studying them to learn more about the species. She has a Bachelor of Science degree with emphasis on Zoology and Environmental Science. She has been a zookeeper for 8 months but also did an internship for an additional year.

Her favorite animal to work with is Miss Piggy, she is a nearly 50-year-old Texas Tortoise. Despite her age, and the fact that she is a reptile, she is incredibly smart. She knows how to touch a colored target, wave her leg, lay down and open her mouth all on cue. Kaitlyn does training on a regular basis with Miss Piggy.

tinapics2Kaitlyn’s hobbies include hiking and visiting the beach but in her free time she also bartends on Friday evenings in Augusta because she loves talking with people! She and her boyfriend have been dating for 4 years and he lives and works in Augusta.

Kaitlyn has been at Riverbanks Zoo since January 2018 as the Animal Ambassador Keeper. She is the guest engagement ambassador, and leads programs that include animal encounters, narrating animal trainings/feedings, and engaging with every day guests.

I have learned so much from her in the past few months. She is an asset to Riverbanks Zoo; our animals and we are blessed to have her.

Two Short Stories: A Touch of Christmas Nostalgia & The Best Gift Ever Given

By: Marianna Boyce

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My childhood home was situated on a dead end street just outside the town of Lexington. Sixteen modest houses lined each side of the road. Ours was the eighth on the left, placing it directly in the middle of the neighborhood. My entire family is quite fond of this old home place—one that created  countless cherished memories.

I’m the baby of five children. Having two older brothers and two older sisters assured there was never a dull moment in the Caldwell household.

Tommy, Beverly, and Lewis are Baby Boomers, while Cindy and I are from Generation X. We didn’t allow a little generation gap divide our relationships with one another. We’ve always kept close family ties—even to this day. For that, I am truly thankful.

Financially speaking, we weren’t rich, but always had everything we needed. None of us received the constant stream of new toys throughout the year like many kids get nowadays. The only toys we possessed were from the previous Christmas, which is exactly what made each holiday so special.

Of course, we all grew up knowing the true meaning behind this sacred season, but mom and daddy also allowed our vivid imaginations run wild about Santa as well. It was those particular years I remember the most. For me, the early 1970s were simply magical.

At the beginning of each holiday season, mom would hang three silver bells directly in the center of our living room ceiling. These simple glittery ornaments brought me much joy and excitement. I knew once she hung those silver bells, Christmas was right around the corner.

After the ceiling centerpiece was in place, she’d also scatter glass Christmas balls around the bells using white thread and thumbtacks. These brightly-colored ornaments were beautiful, fragile, and quite unique. I wish we had possession of them today.

Mom would decorate the outside of the house with as much pride as the inside. I loved the velvety red striping wrapped around each of the four posts on the front porch. It made them look like peppermint candy sticks. She even made the ol’ mailbox look festive with red ribbon and artificial poinsettias.

She always saved the best ‘til last—her masterpiece—the Christmas tree.

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The old-fashioned multi-colored glass bulbs were particularly hot to touch. No one had miniature lights yet. I’m unsure if they’d even been introduced to the world yet. Mom and Beverly constantly warned us younger kids to handle the hot lights with care, but as we grew older, Lewis, Cindy, and I often had contests to determine who could hold one in our hand the longest. Lewis mostly won. This stands to reason since he was the most rambunctious, stubborn child.

No one’s tree was complete until silver tinsel covered it. Mom always had a keen eye for the perfect balance. The tinsel was strategically placed so it wouldn’t melt onto those hot bulbs. My siblings and I often nonchalantly tossed it on, but Beverly—the motherly sister, cleaned up our mess and helped mom finish decorating the perfect tree.

When the much anticipated Sears and Roebuck catalog was delivered to our house, excitement filled the air. We all laid in the living room floor flipping through the pages seeing what toys would be available from Santa’s workshop that year. It wasn’t uncommon for us to peruse through the thick catalog daily to add to our ever-growing list.

On nights Christmas specials aired on TV, mom encouraged us to bathe early. After the quickest baths known to mankind, we hurriedly put on our flannel pajamas. Since there were no presents under the tree yet, we laid underneath the Christmas tree mesmerized by the colorful array of lights.

Mom usually served popcorn and hot chocolate, both of which were prepared on the stove-top in covered pots. Daddy popped the corn, while mom tended to the chocolate beverage so it wouldn’t scorch. We didn’t have a microwave back then. No one did. They’d been introduced, but were too expensive for most anyone on our street to afford at that time.

Since there was no such thing as a television remote, Tommy and Lewis were typically in charge of changing the channel and adjusting the volume. There were only four stations to choose from. Who remembers having only channels 10 (NBC,) 19 (CBS,) 25 (ABC,) and 35. WACH-Fox Channel-57 didn’t come on the scene until the mid-1980s. Rich or poor, that’s all anyone had. We didn’t have hundreds of channels like we do now.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, were my favorite TV specials. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, Frosty the Snowman, and A Charlie Brown Christmas, all tied for close seconds.

I love how several make mention of the birth of Jesus Christ. I know it’s only a quick “honorable mention,” but Linus went above and beyond at the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas as he quoted scripture from the Bible.

When Christmas morning finally arrived, our living room floor was covered from wall to wall. Of course, my sisters and I received all the girlie toys we’d wished for. There were baby dolls, strollers, and Barbies galore. Lincoln Logs and TinkerToys were also favorites. I probably played with them as much as anything else. They may have been Tommy and Lewis’s toys.  Who knows? In my mind, they were mine for being extra good that year.

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Tommy and Lewis received the traditional boy toys—walkie talkies, trucks, wagons, and balls. When Lewis was old enough, he even got a BB gun. He didn’t shoot his eye out, but probably came close a time or two. My sisters and I wisely steered clear when he and Tommy were outside shooting aimlessly into the woods behind our house. Daddy probably took the gun away more than Lewis shot it, but that’s one of two things that happened when rules were broken…

I remember one Christmas, we all received new bicycles the same year. Tommy’s was red, Beverly’s was green, Lewis’s was gold, and Cindy’s was pink—I think, but I know mine was purple.

Later, we learned daddy stayed up all night assembling them before five wide-eyed kiddos climbed out of bed on Christmas morning. Nowadays, bicycles are purchased already assembled. (Daddy—I’m so sorry you didn’t get any sleep that night.)

We eventually grew out of the Santa Clause phase, but cherish the few tender years when this enchanting world existed. I’m thankful the older kids never ruined it for the younger ones.

It seems cliche to mention how fast time passes. Each year zips by more quickly than the last. Living in a day and age where children don’t know what the Great American Wish Book is, or the joy of sitting through an entire episode of a Christmas classic without looking at an electronic device, I’d say, they’re truly missing out.

What a difference a generation or two makes.

The magic of Christmas was always alive and well in our little house on that dead end street in Lexington, South Carolina. What I’d give to experience another Christmas from my past.

What are some of your favorite childhood Christmas memories? What was the best gift you ever received?


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Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Pexels.com

The Best Gift Ever Given

Luke 2:8-14 (KJV)

8)And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9)And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10)And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11)For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12)And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13)And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14)Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” (Linus Van Pelt – From A Charlie Brown Christmas – December 9, 1965)

May God bless you and your families this holiday season. Merry Christmas everyone.

Year in Review

By Tina Cameron

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Hunter & I on his 25th Birthday

I have been reflecting a lot on my life and my family this past year. My younger son turned 25 on November 30th — how is that even possible? His brother will be 29 in March. I can still remember being pregnant, them coming home from the hospital, their first days of kindergarten, high school graduation, college graduation. I am 51 and don’t feel like my sweet boys should be grown men already. It recently occurred to me that more than half of my life is over which is terrifying and sad especially because I have not accomplished half of the things I want to.

 

It reminds me of that amazing song by Kenny Chesney “Don’t Blink.” I made videos for both boys at their high school graduation parties of their first 18 years with that song playing as the background music. The song talks about how fast life moves on, “don’t blink.”

My heart and mind feel like I am still in my 30s, however, my body is another story. I feel more like I am in my late 60s to early 70s. I need to work on getting in shape and losing weight—again! I am not making excuses, but I have no energy on my days off between work and graduate school to want to do anything besides veg out on the couch and watch TV or nap. My sleep schedule is always out of sorts. Lately, I wake up at 2:30 A.M., even when going to bed at 11:30 P.M. I am worn out.

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This year I lost my beloved bunny, Oreo. It was heartbreaking, and I miss him so much, but he is in Heaven with Haley. Throughout the year, I have also lost animals that I took care of as a volunteer at the zoo. It is just heartbreaking for me to lose any animal that I fall in love with.

 

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Corey & I tailgating Alabama vs. USC

Overall, 2019 has been a good year for me. I graduated with my BSN, I started graduate school, and I am doing more volunteer work in the community. However, having my boys living two hours away in Charleston with their own lives is becoming harder on my heart than I thought it would. This was the first year that Corey did not come home for Thanksgiving as well as the first year I did not see Hunter on his birthday. It absolutely broke my heart. I know I need to understand that they are grown, and this was eventually going to happen, but it still hurts.

As we approach the Christmas holidays, I want to encourage everyone to take a moment to reflect on this past year and make hopes and goals for the next. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

 

The Power of 1: Ovarian Cancer Awareness

By Lauren Crooks

LaurenCrooks_OvarianCancerYou probably don’t know me, but my name is Lauren. I am a wife, a mother, and a daughter. I am a Lexington Medical Center registered nurse. I am a beach lover and a 1000-piece puzzle wizard.

I am also 1 in 72.

I am 1 of the 20,000.

I am 1 of the 95%.

I believe in the power of 1.

You’re probably asking what those numbers mean.

 

Ovarian cancer occurs in approximately 1 in 72 women.

On July 5th, 2019, I was diagnosed with Stage 2A Ovarian Cancer. My physician noticed a mass in my abdomen during my annual physical and sent me for an ultrasound.  This led to a CT scan and then surgery to remove my ovaries, fallopian tubes and part of my cervix. The gynecologic oncologist who performed my surgery had no reason to believe at the time of my surgery that I had anything more than ovarian cysts.  He saw no visual evidence of cancer anywhere in my abdomen during my surgery.  That all changed when the pathology report came back a week later.  My left ovary, while normal looking on the outside, was cancerous.  My right ovary – the basketball sized one that prompted the initial ultrasound – had a small cancerous area on the wall.

Each year, over 20,000 women are diagnosed.

According to the Ovarian Cancer Coalition of Columbia, ovarian cancer is called “the disease that whispers.” Women may not recognize the symptoms that signal the onset. You see, there is not a universally accepted test for ovarian cancer and it is never detected through pap smear examinations. It is one of the deadliest cancers among women, often detected too late to be cured. I urge you to be aware of the quiet, whispering symptoms of ovarian cancer that you might see in the early stages.  If the following symptoms are unusual for you and occur almost daily for more than a few weeks, they need to be evaluated for ovarian cancer:

  • Abdominal pressure, bloating or discomfort
  • Nausea, indigestion or gas
  • Constant feeling of fullness
  • Constipation, diarrhea or frequent urination
  • Abnormal female-related bleeding
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Painful sexual intercourse

If detected early, ovarian cancer has a 95% five-year survival rate.

I am one of the fortunate ones. Once I finish my six rounds of chemotherapy, I will be considered an ovarian cancer survivor. Yet, there are so many women I’ve met during my treatments who might not get that title. Many were not diagnosed until their ovarian cancer was already in Stage 3 or 4.  Sadly, the survival rate drops below 25% for five-year survival for those who are in stage 3 and 5% for those diagnosed in stage 4. Each year 15,000 women die from this disease. This simply is not acceptable.

The power of 1 person can create a powerful domino effect towards change.

I write this blog in honor of these warriors. I believe I was spared to tell their stories. It is my sincere prayer, despite a very dire diagnosis, they can beat ovarian cancer and join me in the fight to educate South Carolina about this brutal disease. But, no matter what the future holds, the stories of my fellow fighters will help me change the numbers. They will help more women, like me, become survivors.

I invite you to be the 1.

Be the 1 who makes an appointment with her GYN because she now knows the symptoms. Be the 1 who encourages a friend or loved one to be seen by her physician. Be the 1 who shares this blog, or donates to ovarian cancer research, or simply holds the hand of someone in the middle of her fight.

It all makes a difference. Together, let’s change the numbers.

Do you have a health story to share? Let us know in the comments below!