A Teacher’s Letter to Santa

By Shannon Boatwright

Dear Santa,

I’m not a child anymore, but I’m hoping it counts that as a teacher, I’m with children all day every day. I know it’s been a long time since I’ve written you, but you know I became a teacher. Although my job in the public school system has seemingly beaten me down, I have managed to hold onto my childlike wonder, hopes, and dreams. I have never stopped believing in the spirit of Christmas and I never will.

With that being said, all of us good teachers need your help, Santa.  We’re in the middle of a complete crisis in our classrooms. Lots of our students these days have lost their work ethic, manners, and respect, and on top of that, the public school system has become so jaded and lost that we teachers simply cannot teach. It’s a real mess here, Mr. Claus.

It makes me wonder, why can’t they all just be good, for goodness sake?

I don’t quite know what could be done. A few lumps of coal may send the message, but then again, I’d really like a reform of the public school system with discipline and a better understanding of logic and reason this year, so I can continue to inspire and educate young minds.

Ok, ok, I know that’s an unreasonable amount to ask for! I mean I know you laugh when you’re asked for sports cars and new houses because that’s a bit out of your gift range. But hey, I just figured it wouldn’t hurt to reach out to you, Santa. Your magic and precious spirit help to heal and open hearts and minds.

Today’s students need good teachers more than ever, Santa, but our current system is keeping the good teachers from doing their jobs and is pushing them away. Maybe you could consider spreading a little more of your magic this Christmas season when you come to town? We teachers sure would appreciate it.

Here’s to a holiday season of hope, happiness and maybe a little positive change along the way.

Merry Christmas, Santa.

Love always,

A Teacher

 

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!

Holiday Reminders for Gluten Free Eaters

By Rachel Sircy

Lunch table / salad‘Tis the season for eating other people’s cooking. Unfortunately, eating with family and friends poses special challenges for those with dietary restrictions. There are a few tricks, however, that can make the holiday get-togethers more manageable.

First, talk to the host of the party beforehand!

It’s important to make your needs known well ahead of time so your host can coordinate with everyone who may be bringing a dish. It also helps to be as specific as possible. It’s tempting to want to avoid imposition, but, believe me, your fellow partygoers will feel worse if they end up making you sick.

Second, always offer to bring a dish or two of your own, so you will have something that you know is safe to eat.

I have often run into well-meaning family members who think they’re making something gluten free but end up adding gluten through an ingredient they never thought to check. There is nothing quite as frustrating as standing in front of a table stacked high with delicious food that all happens to be off limits to you. This is especially important for parents whose children have dietary restrictions. It’s difficult for adults to people eat off limits food in front of them, imagine the way a child would feel. Make sure you have safe treats for your kids!

Finally, if you absolutely can’t bring anything or speak to the host ahead of time, make sure to eat before you go.

The motto of a longtime gluten free eater is, “Never show up hungry!” Make what you’d like to eat at home and show up full, so you’re not tempted to grab anything off of the dessert table. I always think it’s a good idea to hit up the health food store for some favorite gluten free snacks and bars to keep in my car or purse. I try never to go anywhere without food, especially when I know there will be lots of delicious temptations where I’m going.

Happy holidays and safe eating everyone!

 

What Are The Chances?

By Marianna Boyce

MyChart at Lexington Medical Center is an online tool that connects your personal health records from various doctors. It allows fluid communication with your LMC healthcare team, enables easy access to test results, manages appointments and prescription requests, etc. If you haven’t set up your chart, you may want to consider doing so if you see doctors within this network.

My healthcare team at LMC includes only a primary care physician and rheumatologist. My gynecologist, on the other hand, has worked at South Carolina OBGYN located at Prisma Health Baptist in Columbia for many years. I never had plans to change that, but always wished he was included on MyChart in Lexington.

My phone buzzed one afternoon a couple of weeks ago. The number looked familiar, but I couldn’t place who it was. I skeptically answered anyway. It was a recorded reminder from South Carolina OBGYN about an upcoming appointment. I listened to the recording a second time for clarity because I could hardly believe my ears. I smiled with delight as the robot-sounding voice on the other end of the line shared not only the date and time of my appointment but also that SC OBGYN had moved to a new location. You’ll never guess where.

Their new address is Lexington Medical Park 1 on Sunset Blvd. I was elated! What are the chances? But more importantly, why dedicate an entire blog post about it?

Up until only a few years ago, I considered my OB doc my primary care physician (PCP). Having never experienced any health-related issues, Dr. Holladay was the only doctor I needed to see—until the summer of 2016.

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When I went for my annual checkup that summer day, I shared that something was terribly wrong inside my body. The pain I experienced was the worst I’d felt in my entire life. It was far too great for me to handle on my own. My presumption was bone cancer—a horrible thought, having just arrived home from an exhilarating road trip across the United States of America. I recently wrote a summer road trip series for Every Woman Blog about this very trip when I was 100% healthy.

The pain struck quickly, morphing me into a completely different person within fourteen days of arriving home. My appointment with Dr. Holladay was at this fourteen-day benchmark. I was completely miserable.

My symptoms were not in Dr. Holladay’s area of expertise, but I confided in him anyway. He was my only doctor, my friend, and my confidant. He didn’t shrug off my concerns as  symptoms of getting older, nor did he make me feel it was all in my head or even weight-related. He was exactly the type of doctor I needed for the emergence of my daunting new journey.

After pouring my heart out about the unfortunate chain of events, he immediately sent me down the hall for a complete blood panel to check for anything unusual. He suggested I make an appointment with a primary care physician so he could forward the results of my bloodwork as soon as possible. These tests revealed nothing unusual, to begin with, but this jump-started what would ultimately be a desperate search for an elusive diagnosis.

He put the wheels in motion in 2016, and now that he’s here with me at Lexington Medical Center, MyChart is now complete. I’m sure the aging process will add additional doctors in the future, but as for now, I’m completely satisfied with the three fabulous doctors that I currently have.

A weight update is looming, but that’ll be a blog post all in itself—Ugh! I’ll “weight” and discuss that after the holidays—you’re welcome! Until then, enjoy your time with family, friends, and loved ones. Remember to be thankful all year-round, but for this special time of year—Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Is Playing Christmas Music Early Good for Mental Health?

By Shannon Boatwright

Ok, let’s chat about this. The logical answer is that it depends on the individual!

For me, listening to Christmas music, whatever the season, is good for my mental health. However, according to a post on DoYouRemember.com, psychologists warn that “early” listening could be bad for your health because it can invoke anxiety and negative reminders of the stresses of the holidays.

I can certainly understand that for some people, hearing Christmas music can trigger bad memories and cause stress. I totally empathize and respect that. On the other hand, anytime I hear Christmas music, it instantly makes me happy. Seriously, it instantly adds a little joy to my heart regardless of what I’m doing, going through or stressed about. Hearing Christmas tunes always lifts my spirits.

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My family and I are definitely the types that listen to Christmas songs any time of the year. Not all the time, but occasionally, yes, even in the middle of the summer. My son will say, “Alexa, play Christmas music,” and we certainly don’t stop him. In fact, my husband and I will watch a holiday movie any time of the year. For us, the music and movies are just the same. They evoke happy memories, joy, and lift our spirits, oftentimes even giving us a sense of peace. We’ve already set out our favorite Christmas movies and made sure the Christmas music station is preset on the radio.

Now, we don’t go too crazy and start decorating our house before Halloween. Heck, we’re too busy to go all out before the real holiday season hits, but we do love Christmas!

To those that are stressed out by holiday music and all things Christmas this November, I’m terribly sorry! However, I have to say, I am thankful for Christmas anytime because it is certainly good for my spirits, and I am looking forward to the holiday season!

 

 

Every Story Counts

By Rachel Sircy

online-marketing-hIgeoQjS_iE-unsplashI know that I’ve written many times about how celiac disease affected me before I was diagnosed. The symptoms were all over the place, and no doctor seemed to be able to put the clues together to come up with what was wrong with me. I experienced no digestive issues for most of my life. The symptoms were mostly things like forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, joint pain, and debilitating fatigue. I developed stomach and intestinal issues during my late high school and early college years. It was only after the gastric symptoms – the bloating, the reflux, and the extreme pain I experienced right after eating (which kept me from eating more than about a cup of any given food at once) – became unbearable that a gastroenterologist looked at me and said, “I think I know what’s wrong with you.” Only people who have waited years for a diagnosis know what a blessing it is to finally hear those words.

I don’t know exactly how my mother felt all those years that she looked at me, knowing something was wrong, but not knowing what it could be. Of course, my mother turned out to be a celiac herself. I think there was always a kinship between my mom and me because we were both sick with something we couldn’t name and that, in fact, we weren’t always sure was real. I remember one time, in particular, telling her that I didn’t feel well. She asked me what I meant, and when I told her that I didn’t know, I just felt bad, she shook her head knowingly. It was as if we both understood that we didn’t have the language to talk about the ways we could feel our bodies failing us sometimes. She always believed that the sickness that she felt was the same sickness that I felt, and she was right about that.

She was wrong about what the sickness was, though. She’d been told all her adult life that all of her health problems stemmed from low iron levels. No doctor could tell her why she was anemic. Doctors have a word for when they’ve thrown up their hands and can’t figure something out, it’s idiopathic. I recoil from that word every time I hear it or see it written. If a body is malfunctioning, there is always a reason. That’s my opinion anyway. My mother’s anemia turned out to be only a symptom of her illness: celiac disease. The borderline anemia I had experienced from early childhood turned out to have the same cause.

I keep sharing my story because I believe it’s important for people to know what celiac disease can look and feel like. Raising awareness will get more sick people diagnosed. And that is why I found this story from the New York Times Parenting section so compelling. It is the story of actress Casey Wilson and her oldest son, whose depression, lethargy, broken leg, seizure, and apparent autism all turned out to be symptoms of the same underlying problem: celiac disease. The story is both terrifying and hopeful. Casey’s son, then under four years old, was too young to be able to tell his mother that anything was wrong with him, but Casey and her husband kept watching and finally found a doctor who was able to connect the dots and give them those incredible words: “we have a diagnosis.” And though her journey to her son’s diagnosis was something out of a parent’s nightmare, her son has experienced an amazing recovery just by following a gluten-free diet.

If you have a story of diagnosis, for any disease, (particularly one that’s tricky to pin down, like an autoimmune disease) I would encourage you to share it in whatever way you can. You never know who might be listening, watching or reading. Your story may give hope and much-needed information to someone out there who is still struggling with an inexplicable illness.

For those whose lives or loved ones may be affected by celiac disease, there are many outlets for you to find information and to share information, but I would recommend checking out the Celiac Foundation’s website at celiac.org. You can find out information about celiac disease and gluten-free living, sign up to participate in clinical trials (in certain areas of the country), join the iCeliac patient registry, take part in their student ambassador program and even share your story with Congress.

What I Am Most Thankful For

by Tina Michelle Cameron

Screenshot_20191101-034744_DriveAs the holidays approach I thought I would write about what I am thankful for. First and foremost, I am most thankful for my two children that God has blessed me with. They are the best two things in my life. It was never easy being a divorced mom raising two small children on my own, but I did it. At times, I had to work four jobs at once to support us – I wouldn’t change that for anything. I was always homeroom mom, soccer mom, assistant coach for my younger son’s soccer team, served on the PTA committee, volunteered during testing at their schools, and never missed an orchestra concert, track meet, or football game. Unless I worked the nightshift, I was there to tuck them in bed each night, make dinner, play games, or just snuggle and watch a movie.

I put both through my sons through college – my older son Corey is now a Mechanical Engineer at Mercedes-Benz in Charleston and my younger son is in graduate school at The Citadel and will become a teacher when he graduates next December. I am one proud mommy, and I did it all on my own. I love my boys to the moon and back.

I am thankful for the love and support of my parents. They have always been there for my boys and me through everything, and I love them so very much. I am also thankful for my brother and his family.

Next, I am thankful that I became a nurse and chose to go into the field of oncology. I have been an oncology nurse for twenty-five-and-a-half years, and it was the best decision I have made. I love my patients, and I work for the best nurse manager with a great unit at Lexington Medical Center in the oncology unit. I am blessed to love what I do and thankful for my job every day.

20191006_093104I am thankful that I was hired as a volunteer at Riverbanks Zoo and that I have a work schedule that allows me to do other volunteer work in our community, feeding the homeless at the Transitions Homeless Shelter.

I am thankful for my close friends.

I am thankful for my health, despite a few minor health issues, but overall, I know that it could be worse.

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I am thankful for my beautiful home and thankful that I can afford to put food on the table and have a car to drive.

And lastly, I am thankful for my two fur-babies and my turtle that I get to call my children. They bring me such joy.

I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful holiday season. Don’t forget to take some time to be thankful.