My New Family Member

by Tina Cameron         

20190928_110613 On September 19th, 2019 I went into our local pet store to buy some things for my new turtle tank. I happened to notice that they sell Red-Eared Sliders which is the type of turtle I have. Incubus is fourteen and a half years old. I saw the cute, little babies and one that was a little bigger. I just thought, no one wanted to buy him. Fast forward a week, and he was still there when I went back.

I spoke with the manager about him, and he had been surrendered by the “owner.” I use that term loosely, as the lady that brought him in told the manager that if they wouldn’t take him, she was going to “put him down.” I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My heart broke, and I knew I had to have him. Unfortunately, I had somewhere to be and told them I would be back to get him.

On Saturday, September 28th I stayed up after working all night waiting on the store to open and prayed that he was still there. The employees knew that I was coming and seemed happy that someone was saving this poor little guy. See, he was neglected and apparently mistreated. He was not properly cared for because his shell is bubbled in places and misshapen. He is very nervous and appears to not trust humans. He tends to hiss if you go to touch him. It is so very sad that this poor innocent turtle was mistreated. So, once I signed the adoption papers, he was placed in a transport box. I about cried in the store because I was just so relieved to know that he was going to a loving home. The salesperson said the vet thinks he is about eighteen months old and was told the “owner” never named him. He did check out healthy except for his shell. His first outing was to The Dollar Tree and then to Wal-Mart.

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Introducing him to Incubus was interesting. Incubus couldn’t him figure out—he does seem a little bit jealous and well, the new baby is still adjusting. I was told it would take him a few days. Incubus let him know that he was boss (he stepped on our new addition while swimming by). They are now swimming in the tank in sync with each other, and he is warming up to me. He now swims to me when I stand at the tank, and he has not hissed again. After deliberating for days, I have decided that his name will be Crimson Tide and will call him Crimson for short. He is a Red-Eared Slider, so that is why I chose Crimson. After all, I love turtles, and everyone knows I love the Crimson Tide.

 

A Sweet Boy Named Wyatt

By Tina Michelle Cameron

wyatt outdoor pictureThis will probably be the hardest blog I have written to date. It is part two of a blog from earlier this month which was about September being Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. You see, I want to tell you about a sweet boy named Wyatt. It is easy to talk about Wyatt; it brings a smile to my face and warms my heart to think about him, but with the smiles, also comes tears. Wyatt Edward Brown was born on October 28th, 2014 to the most amazing parents I have ever met – Ashley and Eric Brown. If you follow my blog or are friends with me on Facebook, then you know that I am a nurse at Lexington Medical Center on the oncology unit. This is where I met Wyatt’s mom, Ashley, as she is also an oncology nurse. Ashley and I became friends while working together which is how I got to know this beautiful little boy.

Sweet Wyatt, as I always affectionately called him, was kind, sweet, funny, smart, and so loveable and loved. He loved superheroes (the Hulk was his favorite), cheering on the Clemson Tigers, playing with his action figures, watching his favorite video, The Hulk vs. Batman, and spending time with his amazing family. He was smart having already learned to read and work an iPad like a grownup at age two.

wyatt and mimi adn gigiWyatt was the strongest and toughest little boy that I had the pleasure of getting to know and love. He would light up a room with his smile and gave the sweetest hugs and kisses. Some of my favorite memories of Wyatt were playing with his toys or just watching cartoons. Another favorite is when they would FaceTime me from Texas or call me during a football game to just say “Go Tigers!” (To mess with me because I am a diehard Crimson Tide fan).

Wyatt was diagnosed at three-months-old with Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer. He had surgery followed by 399 days of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He went into remission, but then, unfortunately, relapsed – which led to more treatment, radiation, and an extensive surgery at M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas. Eric and Ashley had to relocate there for three months for his surgery and treatment. This is where they met the incredible Melissa Bellinger who started the A Shelter for Cancer Families organization that provides housing and support to families affected by cancer in the Texas area.

bracelet team wyattAshley and Eric created a Facebook page (TeamWyatt) to keep family and friends updated on Wyatt’s condition. His page has 5,477 followers from all across the world. It is filled with messages of love, support, and prayers showing beautiful pictures of sweet Wyatt and his family. T-shirts, decals, and matching bracelets with the words “No One Fights Alone” were made to show support for Wyatt and his fight. Unfortunately, he passed away on April 28th, 2017.

Just a week after Wyatt passed, and despite their unimaginable loss, his parents held an event to honor Wyatt and raise money for A Shelter for Cancer Families. I was honored to volunteer with the organization and Wyatt’s family, and we raised $10,000 in one evening.

This amazing little boy endured surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments like a champ. He never complained. Wyatt will never be forgotten and will forever be loved by his beautiful family. Despite his life being so tragically cut short at two and a half years old, his parents and family gave him a lifetime of love and adventures in that short time. I know that he is watching over them and his new little sister Emma Ray Hope from Heaven and will forever be their guardian angel.

family picI will always love Ashley and Eric for allowing me to become an honorary member of their family and the time I spent with sweet Wyatt. Ashley, I love you like a sister, a close friend, and the daughter that I never had. Thank you both for sharing your most precious Wyatt with me and the world. To Wyatt, we will continue to fight for more funding and for a cure. You will always be my superhero.  I will always love you and hold you in my heart forever.

#teamwyattforever #noonefightsalone #superhero #hulk #sweetwyatt #ashelterforcancerfamilies

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

by Tina Michelle Cameron

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Gold is the color representing childhood cancer. How I wish that neither of these would exist. Cancer shouldn’t exist—for anyone – adults or children. This statement is coming from a woman who worked for 25 years as an adult oncology nurse. I would love to have to find a different field of nursing to work in – this would mean, cancer doesn’t exist. But, unfortunately, this is not the case.

Image 2Many people think childhood cancer is rare. But, each day in the United States, 43 families will hear the words parents should never hear: “your child has cancer.” It is the number one disease killer of children in the U.S. and the second leading cause of death (after accidents) in children ages 5-14. This means that every two minutes a child is diagnosed with cancer. This is an average of 300,000 kids worldwide being diagnosed each year—does this sound rare to you? This is unacceptable. Something must change. We need to demand more for these precious, innocent children.

I have listed the seven most common types of pediatric cancers. Leukemia is the number one cancer in children followed by Rhabdomyosarcoma, Wilms’ Tumor, Neuroblastoma, Lymphoma, Retinoblastoma, and Brain/Spinal Cord Tumors.

According to the Coalition Against Childhood Cancer (CAC2)* in 2014, of the $4.9 billion budget of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), only four percent went to research for childhood cancers. So, exactly how much is 4%– 4% of a dozen donuts is half a donut; 4% of an 8-hour night of sleep is 19.2 minutes and 4% of a $50,000 salary is $2,000.

Image 3Are you shocked? Has your mouth fallen open yet after reading that? Mine too. Were you also aware that since 1980, there have only been 3 new drugs approved for pediatric cancer treatment? In addition, only 4 new drugs approved for both pediatric and adult cancer treatment. These children are receiving adult-strength dosages to treat their cancers. The NCI needs to put childhood cancers as a higher priority as well as pharmaceutical companies. Many adult cancers receive private funding, this is not the case for pediatric cancers.

Parents are terrified of losing their child to this horrible disease, but must also still deal with life—work, other children at home, financial worries, as well as watching their child be sick with nausea/vomiting, pain, diarrhea, mouth sores, hair loss and other side effects from their treatments. Children that survive cancer often face lifelong problems from their treatments. These problems can range from breathing problems and difficulty walking to sight, hearing and heart issues. Many of these children can become traumatized from everything they go through. So, even though the treatments are over, their journey is still not over. They will have the fear of it returning.

Image 1Parents should not worry about losing their job, their home, their car or getting behind on bills because of the financial burden that cancer treatments cost. Many parents must create a GoFundMe page, so they can stay with their child in the hospital or be with them for their lengthy treatments. This should not be. We as a nation need to stand up for these children and do better. We need to ensure more research funding goes to these children. They deserve more than 4%.

*Credit for cancer statistics given to Coalition Against Childhood Cancer and the National Cancer Institute.

First Day of Grad School

By: Tina Michelle Cameron

Hi everyone. Well, today I embarked on my new educational adventure. The first day of Grad school at The University of Alabama. I am in the Master of Science Program with a concentration in Nursing Administration. My first two assignments are partially done- an introduction video which should have been easy—90 seconds, how hard could that be? Well, 18 takes later—nailed it!! Then successfully uploaded it to a new site that I am not at all familiar with.
I have been under the weather since Saturday afternoon and still feel crappy today as I write this (double ear infections, sinus infection, and eye infection, dizziness, low grade fever and terrible scratchy throat), so I will finish the other half of the assignments tomorrow. I am ahead of the due date—yea me! This is my goal for grad school and to not procrastinate on any assignment.
I procrastinate when it comes to house work and have been known to wait to start an assignment, but I am trying to avoid this. I have a wonderful boss who has her MSN degree and she has been very supportive and has made herself available for questions, etc. I am very thankful for Theresa. She is an amazing nurse manager.
Switching back to first day of school, I have so enjoyed seeing friends and family members posting on social media first day of school pictures of their sweet children that I have watched grow up. So, on Monday, I decided to do a first day of grad school photo. My neighbor saw me struggling to take a selfie, so he offered to take some pictures and my friend Hannah let me borrow her chalkboard sign. It was fun to do, and I have gotten wonderful responses on social media for posting it. I even shared it with the Bama by Distance Facebook page and the other grad students have since started posting their 1st day pictures!20190821_211209 (1)

I hope all your children have a wonderful year of school. May God watch over all our students at each school and university and keep them and the educators safe. Thank you to all the educators for what you do. I am a proud mom of a future educator.
I have included my 1st day of grad school pictures—enjoy!20190821_172041

Prayers for our Nation

By Tina Cameron

My heart is yet broken again. Prayers, hugs, and love again being sent to people that I have never met. Facebook status being changed again for “Prayers for _____”. I have said it before in a blog–ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! That was in response to Law Enforcement Officers being beaten, shot, stabbed and murdered on a daily basis. Today is about the horrific shootings this weekend in two different cities–El Paso and Dayton.

I live in the land of the free, home of the brave. We do not live in a country that is in a war. This is The United States of America. People should not need to live in fear to go run errands at Walmart, the mall, or to go out with friends to a nightclub/bar to have a fun time. I have no words after these tragedies this weekend. Just tears, fear, and anger. Tears for the innocent people murdered in cold blood. For the 8 week old baby whose 25 year-old mom who was murdered as she shielded her newborn. This poor innocent child will never know his mom other then through words and pictures from his surviving family members. Numerous people were killed Saturday, August 3rd, 2019 at a Walmart shopping center in El Paso. They were doing what a lot of us do on Saturday mornings–running errands, grocery shopping, back to school shopping for their kiddos. When the unimaginable and unfathomable happened again in America–another mass shooting. So many people murdered, so many more injured and remain hospitalized. The young person responsible for this appears to be smiling on the still photo the police released as he walked into Walmart to unleash his mayhem. I read he left a manifesto. I do not want to read anything about this monster. The public needs to focus on the victims and their families, law enforcement, first responders, and the hospital medical teams who worked to save these people. Then I wake up to hear the news of another mass shooting in Dayton. Many died, many injured. Thank God, the shooter was stopped before killing more people.

I am one person, who cares for everyone, and I feel helpless because I do not know what to do to help these people. Prayers, hugs, and love are not enough to save the American people from these monsters that are living near us. I cannot fathom how someone could have that much hate and anger in them. Daily or weekly mass shootings do not belong anywhere in our beautiful country.

Fear has now become a part of mine and others’ lives. I now own a small handgun for protection at my home, however many places like Walmart do not allow guns in their store, so what are we to do to protect ourselves? Children should not witness their parents being slaughtered as well as parents watching their innocent 2 year-old be shot.

Anger, anger, and more anger. This is what I have felt since Saturday. I do not personally know anyone who has been shot in the mass shootings, however I have friends who know people shot and killed in the mass shooting that occurred in Las Vegas. Just this weekend, it was announced that a student was arrested for making terrorist threats and videos about shooting up the school. This is a private Catholic school where my nephew just graduated from, my niece attends school at and my brother coaches at. This is the closest I have come to a potential incident happening affecting someone I love. Thank God that law enforcement was made aware and the student has been arrested before he could carry out any shootings.

As much as these mass shootings continue to happen, I have to believe in my heart that there are more good people then evil in the world. We need to come together as a Nation and shout from the rooftops ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!! We need to spread kindness, not hate. We are all the same!! So, as I sit here typing this, my thoughts remain with the victims and the families of these senseless shootings. Please know that America’s heart breaks with you. Continued prayers for them, law enforcement, first responders and medical staff.

#spreadkindness
#loveoneanother
#weareallthesame
#prayersloveandhugs
#prayersformankind
#prayforamerica

Living with a Chronic Illness

By: Tina Cameron

Not many people know that my two sons and I have a chronic illness that has no cure. It all began when my oldest was 9 years old. He was injured in his karate class (kicked accidentally in the head) by another kid. He was close to having a detached retina, had a black eye, busted blood vessels and spent 8 weeks wearing an eye patch. What we didn’t realize for several weeks was that this kick to his head turned out to be a blessing in disguise. He started having a “clicking” sound when he would move his head up and down or left and right. He thought it was a party trick. Little did we know that it was actually very serious. From his pediatrician’s office we were sent straight to Palmetto Health Richland for STAT CT Scans of his neck and spine. I began getting nervous as they kept coming to get him for more scans. At last, I heard my name being called and looked up and it was the radiologist with my son and tons of CT films in hand. She said Dr. Fred Piehl (pediatric orthopedic surgeon) is waiting for you now. I said, “it is 4:50, they are closing”. She replied, he is keeping the office open for you, you need to go now. I called my mom and my ex-husband and they both met us there.

As we all set in his office, I feared the worst. Corey was in the hallway and he spoke to us first and informed us what his condition was and that it could be life-threatening, and that Corey needed to be aware of it. He was diagnosed with Atlanto-Axial Instability of his Cervical 1 and 2 spine. He could turn, cough, sneeze or get in his head and it cause him to break his neck and with that he could break it and be fine, break it and become a quadriplegic instantly, or break it and it kill him instantly. We went home in shock. Everything changed, from how his bed was positioned, to never being able to play contact sports, diving in my parent’s pool, and his karate career was over. He was also home-bound from school for 9 months. He was 9 hours short of getting his black belt. He what is edsalso taught two classes of karate a week. We were sent to a neurosurgeon and neurologist as well geneticist. After our first visit to the neurologist, he said I think you all have this rare connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Type 3. He told me to look it up and then sent us immediately for lab work on another floor in his office building. Shortly after his labs were drawn and we were waiting to leave, Corey grabbed his head and said, “I don’t feel well”. He proceeded to fall out of the chair, had a Grand-Mal Seizure and quit breathing and his heart stopped. I am a nurse and at that moment, I freaked out and was only the mommy. Thank God there were two other nurses there for lab work that revived him. We were on campus of the Children’s Hospital, so we were admitted from the emergency room for the weekend. He was also having incontinence of urine and numbness/tingling in all his extremities. Seizures also go with the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS).

Once we had the official diagnosis from the geneticist, I became obsessed with finding everything I could about it. My friends who are physicians had not seen cases in over 20 years. It can affect your heart and affects all your connective tissue in your body, it affects your skin. The type we have, type 3 is now called hEDS (hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome). There are now 13 different type of EDS. It is a group of inherited connective tissue disorders caused by abnormalities in the structure, production and/or processing of collagen. So, we have faulty collagen. Collagen supplements do not work for us, because it is our DNA that is screwed up. Basically, the boys and I have easy bruising, easy bleeding, incisions after surgery do not stay closed and we are extremely hypermobile and have soft, stretchy skin. We are prone to multiple dislocations daily, pain all over, bruises that come from something as simple as rolling over in bed. EDSers also have multiple medicine and food allergies and Corey and I do. This condition is hereditary, so unfortunately if my children have kids, there is a 50/50 chance their kids will have it as well. The most serious type is vEDS (vascular EDS)-this is where most people do not live past 35 and they usually die unexpectedly from an aortic dissection. My older son has the most serious case of hEDS out of the three of us and I have it moderately and my youngest just has it mildly.

When Corey was growing up, he began having dislocations from changing his shirt or raising his hand in class, to hip dislocating from walking in the school halls. He went through extensive physical therapy for 3 months and to this day must work out daily. We ended up not having the rod placed in his spine and gradually the numbness and incontinence went away. His instability in his C1 C2 spine has closed some which is wonderful. He learned how to put his shoulder or hip back in place on his own to avoid trips to the ER.

My hip has dislocated once, my shoulder 3-4 times from rolling over in bed when sleeping. I am in constant pain all over almost daily. My knees are bad and slip out at times, so I have braces to wear as needed or when I run. Bruises on my body, stay about 8 weeks where on normal people, just a few days. I even get bruises from fire ant bites.

Both boys have had complete knee reconstructions, at age 16 and age 26. We know we will be facing knee and hip replacements as we age. This condition affects our eyes, our teeth, and pretty much our whole body. Most people with hEDS also have Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, migraines, and more.

Knowing that you have a chronic illness with no cure is a hard pill to swallow. However, I try not to let it run my life. I deal with the pain and take Advil with me everywhere. There are days, I hurt so much all over I cannot get off the couch. Many physicians have not ever heard of EDS and many do not believe the patient and think they are hypochondriacs. Family members also doubt us (not mine), but people that I have met in online support groups. We started calling ourselves Zebras because in Med School, thewhy the zebra students are taught to that when you hear hooves, think horses, not Zebras. In medicine, the term Zebra is given to a rare disease or condition. That is how we became known as medical Zebras. Because of the complex nature of our disorder, we are followed by primary care, rheumatologist, geneticist, cardiologist, physical therapist, gastroenterologist, urologists, neurologists and many more specialists as things arise. Some of the friends I have made in my support group are already on disability at 22 and 32 years of age, so I feel blessed that as of right now, my joints have tightened up, I can deal with the pain and that thank God, we do not have the vascular type. I thank God everyday that my boys otherwise are healthy and that Corey’s doing much better and is in great physical shape.

eds scoreSo, the next time you see a contortionist on America’s Got Talent, more than likely, they have Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. And, if you see someone parked in a handicap space get out and they can walk (just slowly) or is young and, in a wheelchair, —do not judge. Not all disabilities are visible. Because of so many people in the medical field not knowing or even understanding EDS, awareness needs to be widespread globally. Fortunately, May is EDS Awareness month and with numerous online support groups on social media, we are getting the awareness out on what this disorder is. What we need most is for our physicians to believe our symptoms and not dismiss us, or think we are hypochondriacs. There are genetic markers for vEDS, so I am not sure why medical professionals are not believing genetic testing.

eds meme

One Year Later: The Grief Continues

By Tina Michelle Cameron 

Today marks the one-year anniversary of making the difficult decision to send my sweet Haley Michelle-my beloved Yorkie over the Rainbow Bridge. My first blog was about her because it was so fresh and raw; today, one year later, it is still so painful. Pet grief is real. People that are not dog lovers do not understand. Haley was in my life for almost ten years. She brought such joy to my life and to my sons lives (even though they thought she was a girl’s dog and thought I was crazy to dress her up in dresses). They grew to love her and even talked sweet baby talk to her. She was always so happy to see them when they came home and couldn’t wait to greet them at the door when they returned home from college for the weekend.

Call me crazy, but Haley was “my daughter I never had”. I often joked I didn’t have to send her to college, I could take her places with me, dress her up in dresses, pajamas and Haley 2hair-bows (she hated the hair-bows and could shake them out in about 10 seconds). She loved cheese and knew where it was located. Like clockwork every morning, she would go potty and then return and sit in front of the fridge until she got a small bite of a cheese stick. When she was a puppy, every night, she would carry her baby (stuffed animal) up to bed. She would go tell the boys goodnight and sit outside their door until they told her goodnight.

Haley was sick from 8 months on with several major illnesses and each time she would get sick, I thought it was going to be time to say goodbye. She went into liver failure at age 2 and I was told she would not live to be four. So, I decided she would eat whatever her little heart desired. Besides cheese, she loved Cheetos and chicken. In a million years, I never thought at almost 10 years old, her liver enzymes would be normal, and she would be diagnosed with a rare pancreatic cancer. This cancer would ravage her tiny body. First, with weight loss (despite having a great appetite), then with low blood sugars, seizures, no appetite for food or water followed by bleeding. Twelve days after diagnosis, I made the difficult decision to end her suffering. I wrapped her inHaley 1 one of her blankets, held her and told her how much I loved her through the tears. Before I could get the words “I’m not ready yet” out of my mouth, the second medicine was given by the vet and it was over. The sweet vet tech took a picture of me holding her just before that and Haley perked up for a second, looked at the camera (she hated having pictures taken) and appeared to be smiling and at peace. I know I did the humane thing by ending her suffering, but my heart still hurts. I still cry when I think about her. My sweet daddy came over that afternoon and we buried her in my backyard. I allowed my other pets to see her and say goodbye. I made her burial site a little flower garden which makes me smile when I look at it.

Peyton grieving for Haley

Peyton grieving the loss of Haley

The loss of a pet is real and painful-not just for the owners, but also for the other pets in the family. Peyton, my other Yorkie is still not herself. She stares out the window for most of the day, doesn’t play like she used to, and will cry on my lap for no apparent reason. I know with time, my grief will get easier, but for now it is still painful. Writing about her today on the first anniversary has helped me get through the day.