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News Article

November 24, 2011
(VIDEO) Bahamian comedians add humor to Dolly promotional campaign

Three years running, Dolly Madison Home Center has enlisted the services of the comedic creative duo comprising of Patrice Johnson and Brion Roxbury to present their Christmas sales information to the masses on Grand Bahama Island.

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News Article
1st Annual Mario Carey Realty Blood Drive a Success
March 18, 2011
1st Annual Mario Carey Realty Blood Drive a Success

1st Annual Mario Carey Realty Blood Drive was a success. Donors gave blood at the 1st Annual MCR Blood Drive held at both locations of Robin Hood Enterprises Ltd. hosted by Mario Carey Realty.

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News Article

February 17, 2012
48th annual Heart Ball set to be an unforgettable evening!

Nassau, Bahamas

- It's here!

Under the theme, "Repairing
a broken Heart...What a Gift", The Heart Ball Committee will host
the

48th Annual Heart Ball on Saturday, February 18th, at
Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort. This event will be held under the patronage
of His Excellency Sir Arthur and Lady Foulkes.

Awesome raffle prizes! 

Round trip
ticket for two to London, a round trip tickets for two to Canada coupled
with a hotel stay at One King West Toronto, a Men's Tissot watch,
a Ladies Double Heart Pendant, a John Bull gift basket, a gift basket
by The Perfume Salon, an annual physical, car rental, dinner for six,
facials and massages and many more prizes to be discovered when you
get to The Ball

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News Article

May 20, 2014
49-year-old has already taken her obituary photo

Shaun Munnings is just 49 years old, but she's already had the photographs taken that she wants to be used for her obituary. After being diagnosed with lupus two years ago, she took the photographs because she says she knows that tomorrow is not promised to her.
"People get upset when I talk about death, but I tell them I'm not promised tomorrow, and with lupus, I could die this afternoon from the complications -- that's just how it is."
Munnings has suffered through misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis in her life, going as far back as her childhood when she said would indiscriminately break out in sores and swell up and would be treated for allergies. In her adult years, the trend pretty much continued -- misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis -- from spinal arthritis to one doctor telling her she needed to have surgery. And don't even think about the many different types of medications she's been prescribed over the years. When her mother died in 2007 it all came to a head.
"Everything pretty much went out of control because I was stressed out about my mother's death and grieving. I lost a lot of weight. I had rashes. I had sores in my mouth, and I was extremely tired...not the 'oh, I had a hard day' kind of tired; it was like, 'I can't move my body'. It was like my brain was telling my limbs to move, but it just wasn't working," said Munnings.
As in the past, she sought medical help.
"When the doctor asked me what part of me did I not feel pain, I said my eyelashes and my hair. Just to move to try to shift my body to get into a comfortable position, that was pure pain. Having the sheets touch me was pure pain. My body felt like it was on fire. I got to the point where I could not move and I was having pains in my chest like I was having a heart attack," she said. "I knew it wasn't a stroke because I felt the pain." Through it all she said the fatigue was extreme. "I was so tired that sometimes I would have to lift my legs to get into the tub and on a few occasions would end up being stuck in the tub because I could not get back out. My body wouldn't work for me to lift it over the tub."
After seeing too many doctors to count, Munnings finally found a medic who noticed the rash on her face and told her it looked like the malar rash also called the butterfly rash. It meant that Munnings could have lupus. After a battery of tests, Munnings was finally diagnosed in the latter part of 2011.
Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when the body's immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. It can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms often mimic those of other ailments. The most distinctive sign of lupus is the facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks. Some people are born with a tendency toward developing lupus, which could be triggered by infections, certain drugs or even sunlight. While there's no cure for lupus, treatments can help control symptoms. It's important to remember that no two cases are exactly alike.
Munnings said she felt relieved at finally being diagnosed correctly, especially after the frustration she felt when she knew something was wrong with her, but people kept telling her that it was all in her mind.
"I know lupus can be difficult to diagnose, but when you know something is wrong and people are telling you it's all in your mind, it can get frustrating," she said.
Having lupus she said also made her realize just how strong she is and what she can deal with. That's why she said she had the strength to have the pictures taken that she wants to use for her obituary. As for plans, that's the only one she says she can make, as she does not know how she will feel each hour or each day, so she makes no other plans.
"I can't plan ahead. If you want to invite me somewhere I can't tell you, 'yes I will be there', or 'I will not be there'. When I first started the medication after I was diagnosed, a week later I was like, 'yes, I'm back'. I'm a person who is used to doing things for myself...I like to work in my yard, and if anything needs to be fixed I'm going to try it myself, and if I can't do it then I call someone else. The medication was working very well for me and I felt like the old me, so I started cleaning the house from top to bottom. Cleaned the swimming pool, went swimming. Later on that night, I could not move. I [lay] in the bed and I cried. I called the doctor who said that I needed to remember that the woman I was, was gone."
It was after that that she realized she had to take each second and each hour at a time.
"Yes someone could walk outside and get struck by a bus, and their life is over. But with us, it's like, 'do I have the next second, do I have the next minute, do I have the next five minutes'."
She has a handicapped sticker for her car that allows her to park in handicapped parking spaces. When she started feeling good again, she removed it from the window of her car; the doctor told her to leave it up, because she may walk into a store but might not be able to leave without someone carrying her out.
"I just take one day at a time, and through prayer all things are possible," she said. "Right now I'm feeling good, but about two weeks ago I was like, 'Oh, Lord I'm ready to meet you'. When I first started out, I told the doctor...you know what it is for a person who knows that she serves a happy God to be praying to him -- the God of life -- to die."
The mother of a 23-year-old son said that while she may only have been diagnosed in the last two years, when doctors went back through her medical history, they noticed that she showed lupus traits during her pregnancy, going as far back as her childhood sickliness that left everyone wondering what was wrong with her.
Munnings, who works in accounting, said her employer has been understanding of her struggles over the years and has worked with her. When she can't get into the office, they allow her to call in from home.
Even though she has insurance through work, she says lupus has also hit her hard in the pockets. She has to spend at least $600 per month out of pocket for medications and doctor's visits.
Munnings who is a member of Lupus Bahamas 242 also credits the group with helping her to get through.
"What people don't realize is that while we try to keep ourselves on a happy note, we still have the reality of lupus looming over us. I love the members of the group because you realize even though lupus treats everyone differently, at some point we've all gone through the same thing. So it's like, 'How did you go through this', and it's truly a support group, because you can go there feeling in pain, but when you leave, you still have the pain, but you're laughing."
The month of May is recognized around the world as Lupus Awareness Month, and Nassau-based support group Lupus 242 is leading the way in the education about the debilitating disease that affects an estimated 5.5 million people globally. There are no real statistics on the number of people in The Bahamas with lupus. Lupus 242 to date has 50 active members.

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News Article

May 05, 2014
A butterfly by nature

For more than three decades, Shirl Gaskins has been battling a brutal disease - but to look at her on most days you wouldn't know it. As far as this 50-year-old beauty is concerned, lupus may be on the inside of her, but she won't let it show on the outside.
"Shirl understands whatever her challenge is of the day, and Shirl camouflages that challenge and focuses on the good that is going on with her to take away from whatever the challenge is of the day. Shirl will always be dressed to the nines. Shirl will always have her makeup on. Shirl's hair will be done. Shirl's nails will be done. Shirl's toes will be done, and Shirl will always be matching. I am not allowing lupus to have the best of me," said Gaskins, who described the autoimmune deficiency disease as "awful" and a "brute".
Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when the body's immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. It can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms often mimic those of other ailments. The most distinctive sign of lupus is the facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks. Some people are born with a tendency toward developing lupus, which could be triggered by infections, certain drugs or even sunlight. While there's no cure for lupus, treatments can help control symptoms. It's important to remember that no two cases are exactly alike.
Gaskins was 17 years old when her symptoms first presented after having pizza with friends. She was treated for food poisoning after bouts of vomiting (to the point where she was bringing up bile) and diarrhea. Weeks after treatment was administered for food poisoning, her gastroenteritis symptoms continued for another eight months. Her parents, who were in Atlanta, met a rheumatologist who was starting a lupus research trial. The specialist told her parents to enroll Gaskin as a subject. At age 18, she was officially diagnosed with lupus.
She's battled the disease all of her adult life and has had many ups and downs, including the collapse of her central nervous system in 2000. That episode meant she could not do anything for herself and was dependent on her husband, Dr. Clive Gaskins, to provide detailed care for her. The collapse required her to have to learn to walk again. Under significant stress, Gaskins suffered the onset of Raynaud's disease, requiring her to wear woolen gloves for six months. For the next year, she suffered Temporomandibular disorders (TMD), mouth ulcers and broken bones - including a fractured ankle.
Adapting to her circumstances
"Lupus sends you through these crises. You learn to adapt and you become adaptable to whatever lupus throws at you. My motto is, whatever it throws at me, I'm going to rock. I'm going to make it look good," said Gaskins. "So when I had pleurisy back in 2011 and some other challenges, I lost my hair, tripled the amount of weight that I normally have [she went from a size six to a size 16 because of the amount of steroids she took for treatment] overnight. But my position is, I'm going to rock it. I'm going to make it look good."
While others may have been told not to risk having children, when Gaskins decided she wanted a child, she endured all the necessary medical tests and took precautions to ensure that she would not have a problem with a pregnancy and that lupus would not affect her baby. It took her five years to do it all, but she had a child who is now 23. Her daughter, Aliyah, does not have lupus, but she has lived it, said Gaskins.
"My daughter has lived lupus through her mother having the autoimmune deficiency. She's watched me every time I've gone through a crisis, but I did not realize how observant she was or how much attention she was paying to me until one day she came home from school. She was about 13 and she said, 'Mommy you're not feeling well are you?' And I was like, 'what do you mean?' Because I was pretending to be fine. She was like, 'You're eating junk food. You never eat junk food. You only eat junk food when you're not well.' I did not realize I would eat junk food when I was sick and that she was paying that much attention -- she was a teenager. And even now that she's away and I have a broken toe and a few other issues she calls to ask if I'm staying off my foot. Even though she's not here, she's still in tune with me and what's going on," said Gaskins.
The month of May is recognized around the world as Lupus Awareness Month, and Nassau-based support group Lupus 242 is leading the way in the education about the debilitating disease that affects an estimated 5.5 million people globally. There are no real statistics on the number of people in The Bahamas with lupus. Lupus 242 to date has 50 active members.
"It's a comforting feeling to know that there are others out there who understand what I'm going through, who appreciate when I say I'm not feeling well today but I'm not going to let it get the best of me, that I'm going to just soldier on and do what I have to do, or don't mess with me, I'm not in a good mood. This is no-fly zone today; don't bother me. I've gone under for a few days," said Gaskins of the Lupus 242 group. "They understand that. Even my friends understand that because they've gone through everything with me as well. All of the friends that I have I've had over 30 years, so they understand when I say I've gone under and realize that there's nothing they've done, it's just that I need my space."
Education is key
Gaskins' wish is for more people to read up on the disease so that they can have an understanding of it and what it means to be a lupus patient and the fact that no two sufferers are alike.
"Do not assume anything about this disease. Each individual is different. Do not compare one patient with another. It is extremely unfair to do that to a lupus patient or any person with an autoimmune deficiency disease."
She also wants people to realize how hurtful negative comments can be, especially in reference to weight, their skin or the loss of their hair.
"One Saturday morning, someone I'd known for a really long time who I thought understood my challenges, the first thing that came out of her mouth was 'girl, how you get so fat'? You're telling a woman who is accustomed to being a size six her entire life how she get so fat, knowing her challenges. To me that is the cardinal sin. Or they say to you, 'But you don't look sick.' We don't want to look sick. We don't want anybody's pity. We want empathy and understanding and an encouraging word. A kind word towards a lupus patient I think is the best medicine ever."
As for Gaskins herself, most of her top embarrassing moments are all personal encounters with people who are supposed to know her not recognizing her due to distortion from the disease.
Topping the list of her five most embarrassing moments, she said was having to travel alone at age 18 to Atlanta every other month to go to a strange hospital and to be probed and prodded by doctors and interns for two weeks. She recalls enduring embarrassing tests when she was not accustomed to them, and having onlookers present during the tests.
The number of times Gaskins has gone unrecognized by people she's known for years is difficult to count.
There was the occasion when a girl she had gone to high school with and spoken to in person on a daily basis did not recognize her and asked her if she was Shirl's sister. At that time, Gaskins said she was on lots of steroids.
Recently, she visited someone who had known her for years and the acquaintance failed to recognize her because she looked so different. Gaskins said that hurt. Then there was the little boy who has seen her over and over again; on Sunday he told her he didn't recognize her.
Speaking of each incident, Gaskins' voice gave away her pain.
"The most embarrassing situations are personal -- the way people say to you, 'well why you look like that'? And I say I'm sick - did you not get the memo? The distortion of the body and the distortion of the face - to me - is the cruel part of lupus," she said.
Today, because of what her body has endured, Gaskins has five sizes of clothes in her closet, ranging from size eight to size 16. She said she had to "give up the ghost" recently and gave away all of her size six clothes.
The cost
Dealing with her illness isn't cheap either. Without insurance, Gaskins' monthly medical bills are astronomical. Her medications can cost up to $1,500. She also has to visit a nutritionist monthly at a cost of $500 and a rheumatologist every three months in Florida at a cost of approximately $500 a visit. The medication prescribed from those visits can cost up to $1,500.
Gaskins also does Pilates and yoga to alleviate her suffering, at the cost of an additional $500 per month. She has lupus myositis, and her muscles have to be stretched and lubricated daily, which is where the exercise comes in. Living with fibromyalgia as well, Gaskins endures constant pain and feels the need to exercise constantly.
"Everything that I have means constant exercising. My central nervous system needs to be lubricated and moved every single day. My neuropathy needs to be exercised every day. Everything I have needs exercising," said Gaskins.
And then there's her diet. Due to a number of food allergies, she has to consume a special diet. "I have allergies to foods that people would be like 'What!' -- pumpkin, mango, strawberries, blueberries, asparagus, broccoli -- things that we take for granted. That's why I say anyone who has only heard of lupus needs to read for themselves because you never get the true picture, and the true picture is no two people are alike. And you would probably never find another lupus patient with the same nonsense I'm going through."
In spite of lupus, Gaskins says whoever Shirl was when she was 10 years old is the same Shirl she is at almost 51-- one who intends to live her life.
"I'm a butterfly by nature, so I'm always doing something crazy."
Depending on who you speak to this may not be crazy at all, but at 50, Gaskins still wears her bikini and doesn't care if she's a size two or 22. She says it's her body -- she loves it, embraces it and will flaunt it. She's also competed in four half-marathons, swims three miles three to four times per week, and walks 10 to 12 miles, three to four times per week
She still remembers her beautiful head of hair that she had back in the day. Though it may not be as long, her hair still retains its beauty, though it's now cropped low and dyed platinum blonde. After a steroid treatment, her hair started falling out. She told her hairdresser to cut it all off. When she was able to drive again, they bleached it. She's been rocking her platinum blonde 'do since 2011.
Even though she was diagnosed at an early age, Gaskins managed to hold a job over the years. When she was first diagnosed, she worked with the government and had a permanent secretary who worked with her, even though she was off the job for almost two years. She also worked in a law firm and an offshore bank, places she said that were all accommodating to her, but with the stress level that came with the work environment, her doctor told her she could either work or die. She stayed home for a year in her early 30s with her then four-year-old daughter before landing a part-time job (9a.m. to 1 p.m.) that helped her regain her independence. She worked with that company for 10 years before it went under, but she is grateful for that period because it was what she needed to bolster her confidence.
Today, with many ailments, Gaskins says she is unemployable. To see her, again, you wouldn't know it - she's well dressed with a smile on her face.
And to families who have someone fighting the awful disease, she encourages them to love their relatives.
"Wherever we are that day...whomever we are that day...just love us -- because we don't mean or want to be anything other than the loving, caring person that God has always wanted us to be," she said.
LUPUS 242 AWARENESS MONTH CALENDER OF EVENTS
May 9 -- POP (Put On Purple) For lupus, corporate Bahamas and schools
May 10 -- World Lupus Day (Put on Purple for lupus)
May 18 --Purple Hat Tea Party at St. Matthew's Anglican Parish Hall. Tickets are $25 adults and $15 kids. Telephone 525-9967 for more information.

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News Article

March 14, 2012
A civic-minded student who sees the bigger picture

A smile -- a facial expression formed by flexing the muscles near both ends of the mouth. It is an expression that denotes pleasure, joy or happiness. A smile is understood by everyone despite culture, race or religion. It is internationally known. But for some people, that expression that for many is so simple, can be a source of great embarrassment because of a facial deformity known as a cleft lip or cleft palate.
The gift of a smile may not be something that can be put in a box, wrapped with pretty paper and tied with a bow, but it is something that Operation Smile, an international medical charity has provided to more than 200,000 children and young adults born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities around the world. And it's this organization that 16-year-old Natalie Hernandez is a member of.
The Year 12 student of St. Andrew's School, a volunteer student educator for Operation Smile, recently traveled with the medical mission organization to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, as part of a 48-member volunteer team that performed 81 life-changing smile surgeries, free-of-charge on underprivileged children with cleft lips and palates.
Natalie did not actually perform surgery, but she went into schools where she taught local children about basic health and hygiene such as handwashing, dental hygiene and burn care and prevention. Prior to leaving for Cambodia, she also spent months collecting donations to take to Cambodia. She took over 200 stuffed animals and toothbrushes as well as more than $600 that she raised with her school peers.
"The trip was absolutely amazing," said Hernandez. "It was a life-changing experience. It was so great to see the kids learning and it made me happy to know I was making a difference in their lives in this small way. It also taught me that a mother's love is universal and that a baby born with cleft impacts the whole family. A mom, regardless of where she lives in the world, or her social class, will do whatever she can for her child. "They scrapped together whatever money they could, to ensure that their child could have a chance at a better future."
Natalie witnessed people arriving on mules and buses, who traveled from hours away to take advantage of the free surgeries.
"The trip also helped me to put everything in perspective and see the bigger picture. Life isn't about a particular bag, or going out on Saturday night, as many high school students think. It's about helping others. We have been blessed with so many things -- an education, a house, and food. It's our responsibility to give back and help those who aren't as fortunate," she said.
Persons as young as six months up to age 65 showed up to have surgeries on their cleft lip and palate. Over 20,000 Cambodians suffer from the deformity in a population of 14.8 million. Every year about 600 more babies are born with a facial deformity.
Being a part of this legendary organization may not seem like all that big of a deal to many people but Natalie said it was important to her. She thinks of the many children who go through life with low self-esteem, health issues or those who even die because of complications with their cleft palate or lip and said she couldn't help but want to be a part of improving the quality of their lives.
Now in her third year volunteering with Operation Smile, Natalie was finally able to go into the operating rooms as an observer. It made her appreciate the before and after even more
"It's fulfilling to know I helped out in a bigger way this time around," she said.
In preparation for the mission, Natalie underwent two weeks of training in Beijing, China, last summer to be a student educator on health and hygiene.
While the high school senior is proud of the work she did in Cambodia, she believes it is just as important to encourage her peers to be civic-minded.
"People who can eat three meals daily, have a roof over their heads and access to an education should be grateful for all they have and be able to be compassionate enough to share their wealth -- be it time or money to help the less fortunate," she said.
If more young people learned to care about other people, and get involved in charitable organizations, she said, they could learn to be less selfish and see life in the perspective it should be viewed in.
"Being a part of organizations like [Operation Smile] or going on a trip where you physically assist in changing lives makes things like not getting the perfect present, or grades, or being the perfect size or being allowed to go to a party seem insignificant. Things young people consider to be the end of the world no longer compare when you see the big picture. I am glad I am a part of Operation Smile because it has done me good and I hope for other young people to find something they can relate to in charitable services and get on board. It's our duty to give back because most of us are so fortunate," she said.
In hopes of inspiring other students to do more, Natalie founded a Project Smile club at her school. It currently has 10 members. They have done a number of bake sales from which the proceeds benefit the needy. They have also visited children's homes to lend a hand.
It is also important for the young charity worker to be well-rounded which is why she is also president of her school's chess club and vice president of Model United Nations (MUN) club. She also keeps on top of her studies and has a 3.90 grade point average which is just a slight drop from the 4.00 GPA she maintained for most of her high school years prior to transferring to The Bahamas.
Natalie lived in Honduras for two years before moving to The Bahamas. It was while there that she became involved with Operation Smile. She translated for English-speaking doctors. She was able to help doctors and families communicate about procedures and follow-up care.
"After seeing the amazing results they had, I wanted to become more involved. I am so lucky to have gone on this trip, and thank everyone who made it possible," she said.
Natalie believes her involvement as a local translator on four previous Operation Smile mission trips in the South American country played a role in her getting accepted to participate in the latest mission. But no matter the reason, she said the experience was truly life-changing.
"I was so excited, really happy and proud to get accepted to go on a mission trip with Operation Smile. I always wanted to make a difference in the world and this was a great first step. I think I was chosen because I was president for two years of a group called Jovennes En Accion (Youth in Action) in Honduras, which was a social service group that brought kids from different social classes to volunteer at orphanages and retirement homes."
Out of the hundreds that apply for Operation Smile medical missions, only 30 high school students are accepted.
The St. Andrew's School senior has numerous ambitions which include following in her mother, Sally Sternal's footsteps and working with U.S. embassy especially since she enjoys seeing different parts of the world. Her other option has her becoming a plastic surgeon. She was inspired in the second career choice through her exposure to Operation Smile.
No matter where life's road takes this community-minded young lady she said she would always have a passion for community work and will make creating a better world a priority in her life.
Operation Smile is a non-profit organization that goes around the world to give free cleft palate and cleft lip surgeries to unpriveleged children around. It was founded in 1982 by Kathy and Bill Magee who went to the Phillipines on a medical mission and saw so many underprivileged children and adults afflicted with cleft lip an/or palate. They were moved to organize something significant that would benefit these individuals. The couple knew they had to do something more than just one non-profit mission trip and as a result Project Smile was created. It has brought together thousands of medical professionals and volunteers for hundreds of trips to many areas around the world to perform life-changing surgeries. Since its establishment more than 140,000 children worldwide have been treated.
A cleft occurs when the body's natural structures fail to fuse. This forms before birth. According to statistics, one in 700 children worldwide are born with a cleft lip and/or cleft palate. An older term is harelip, based on the similarity to the cleft in the lip of a hare. A cleft lip or palate can be successfully treated with surgery, especially if conducted soon after birth or in early childhood.
If the cleft does not affect the palate structure of the mouth, it is referred to as cleft lip. It is formed in the top of the lip as either a small gap or an indentation in the lip (partial or incomplete cleft) or if it continues into the nose (complete cleft). Lip cleft can occur as a one-sided (unilateral) or two-sided (bilateral). It is due to the failure of fusion of the maxillary and medial nasal process.
Cleft palate is a condition in which the two plates of the skull that form the hard palate (roof of the mouth) are not completely joined. The soft palate in these cases cleft as well. In most cases, cleft lip is also present.

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News Article

May 21, 2013
A teen's wish: Find a cure for lupus

With the widespread attention given to some diseases almost everyone, no matter their age knows that they are diseases of some sort. But when Alisha Woodside recently wore a band with the words Cure for Lupus, she got the strangest reaction from friends. They wanted to know who lupus was. The other day she asked another group of friends whether they would like to join her at a tea party for lupus. Their response was "For who?" She used the opportunity to speak to her friends about the autoimmune disease.
At 15, Alisha is doing what she can to educate her peers and bring awareness to the chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when the body's immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. It's a disease that can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms often mimic those of other ailments. The most distinctive sign of lupus is the facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks. Some people are born with a tendency toward developing lupus, which may be triggered by infections, certain drugs or even sunlight. While there's no cure for lupus, treatments can help control symptoms.
Alisha is the youngest member of the group Lupus 242 with the disease. She was diagnosed at age 11.
Before her diagnosis her mother, Allison Woodside said her daughter used to always complain about joint pains and always had unexplained bruises on her body.
Alisha fell victim to the difficulty in diagnosing the disease. Early on she was diagnosed with sickle cell. Her parents (Allison and her dad Etwood Woodside) persisted in trying to get help for their daughter and took her to another doctor who upon learning that their was a history of lupus in Alisha's paternal lineage (her father's aunt had lupus), tested her for lupus. But by the time the parents got their daughter to that doctor, Allison says the pains were so severe, Alisha could not walk or talk and was in a wheelchair. The doctor diagnosed Alisha with lupus.
Will my child survive?
"When the doctor confirmed that it was lupus, one of the questions I had for them was: Was she going to die? She looked that bad," said Woodside. "And I didn't know much about lupus ... actually, the only things I'd heard about lupus was when talking to people they would say I had a friend with lupus and they died -- so that was one of my main fears. The only thing going through my mind was: Was she going to live? And if she was going to live, was she going to be a normal child?"
At the diagnosis, Alisha's parent sought help at a specialty clinic in the United States. Today, Woodside says her daughter is much better, and gets the occasional flare. Her last flare was a year ago.
Woodside said her daughter's medication pretty much keeps the disease under control. Alisha downs seven medications daily most of which have to be taken two to three times a day. Taking the medication is something the teenager says she hates doing, but knows she has to in order to control the disease.
And no two cases of lupus are exactly alike. Signs and symptoms may come on suddenly or develop slowly. They may be mild or severe and may be temporary or permanent. Most people with lupus have mild disease, characterized by episodes called flares, when signs and symptoms get worse for a while, then improve or even disappear completely for a time.
Before she was diagnosed, her mother was really scared for her
daughter. Now she says she knows Alisha can live a normal life, but will always have to be on medication.
"We hope that in time, the medications will be reduced and it will go into remission of some sort," she said. But she said her daughter is the normal teen who is quite active -- Alisha plays both basketball and volleyball. Her mother says they try to ensure that Alisha, a tenth grade student at Queen's College, gets a lot of rest, and stays out of the sun at the hottest periods of the day.
While Alisha may have lupus she says she does not let it get her down and prefers to look at the bright side of things.
"I'm actually happy I have lupus, because it shows that having a disease does not stop you from living a normal life, because I see other people with diseases just sit down to themselves, but I ignore that. I don't even think I have a disease. It's just a condition."
Over the years she's had to miss school from time-to-time, the longest was for a three-month period during her sixth grade year when she was diagnosed and was taken to the United States to the doctor. Kids being kids it didn't phase her peers at all, they just welcomed her back into the fold with a fruit basket. She said it wasn't until her ninth grade year that people really started to question her about why she always had to go to the hospital and about the disease.
Normal teenager
Just like a normal teenager, she has her outfit already squared away for the Purple Hat Tea Party Affair at St. Matthew's Parish Hall on Sunday, May 26 and wanted to keep it under wraps so that she could surprise everyone at the event.
And her one wish is that a cure for lupus is found. Alisha is part of a study in the United States for a cure. In the meantime she says she's doing her part to raise awareness about the disease.
During the month of May, Bahamians will join millions around the world to raise awareness for lupus. Nassau-based support group, Lupus 242, is leading the way with events planned to educate locals about the debilitating disease affecting many people living in The Bahamas.
An estimated 5.5 million persons globally live with the chronic autoimmune disease brought on by genetics, environment and hormonal imbalances in the body. There are no real statistics on the number of persons in The Bahamas with lupus.
"May is Lupus Awareness Month and we are appealing to the general public and to corporate Bahamas to support our events and activities," said Shanelle Brennen, Lupus 242 president and a lupus fighter for more than 20 years. "It's amazing the amount of Bahamians who are suffering in silence. We want to provide them with much-needed support through events and through our monthly meetings. Lupus is not an easy illness to live with, but there is hope."
Since Lupus 242 launched in April 2012, person throughout the country have shared their stories on how lupus has impacted their lives. In addition to the events, the group is also releasing a public service announcement entitled "But You Don't Look Sick" and will be selling wristbands and bumper stickers to the general public.

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News Article

February 28, 2012
Aging skin pt. 1

Aging is a process no one wants to go through, particularly women. We want to remain looking and feeling young -- forever.
Skin ages as a result of internal or external causes or a combination of both. Internal aging is caused by the genes we inherit, and is an ongoing process that commences in our mid-20s and continues until God calls us home. This occurs when the quality and quantity of collagen in the body begins to slowly decline. Collagen is an important structure of fibrous protein within the body that provides support and strength to many structures. Collagen in the skin ensures flexibility and strength, like building blocks to a building, along with elastin which is the substance that allows skin to snap back into place.
As we age, the loss of collagen in the skin leads to thinner and weaker skin that bears an increasing amount of fine wrinkles, thin and transparent skin, hollowed cheeks and sunken eyes, coupled with noticeable loss of firmness on the hands and neck and sagging skin, as well as dry skin that may itch. But the reality of what we do with our skin as we age depends on us, regardless of how old we are. Media and beauty companies promise ways to youthful, glowing and radiant skin -- for some it works -- for others it doesn't. And for those people for whom the products don't work, they tend to keep trying different concoctions hoping that what worked for their friends or colleagues would work for them. However, no two skins are the same -- not even people closely related to each other, and what one does to the skin can determine a positive or negative outcome.
Finding the appropriate sunblock is important for all skin types, and having the right moisturizer is key to preventing skin dryness and dehydration which in turn reduces skin discoloration, skin roughness and early development of fine wrinkles. The use of anesthetics, such as Botox and fillers, can also be beneficial in stalling deep wrinkle development of the forehead, smoothing out crow's feet around the eye's and erasing and reducing fine lines, frowning lips, droopy eye brows and thin lips. Peels and exfoliation procedures with chemicals and/or microdermabrasion can also be beneficial in restoring a healthy, youthful, less oily and smoother skin appearance of the face or body.
External aging is caused as a direct result of what the skin is exposed to, or what is applied to it. These products or the environment often act together with the normal internal aging process to prematurely age our skin. External factors include sun exposure, repetitive facial expressions, smoking and certain applied beauty products.
Sun exposure can lead to premature aging because of the ultraviolet rays that are given off by the sun. Several long, or multiple short intense sunbathing sessions cause gradual damage to the skin cells changing them from normal growing to abnormal or cancerous cells. These changes are more commonly seen in the fair skin population than those with dark skin. In the dark skin population, the signs of aging are usually limited to fine wrinkles and a discolored or an uneven skin complexion. However, that does not give the okay for dark-skinned people to spend long or short intense periods in the sun because they too can be at risk for abnormal skin cell changes that can be cancerous.
Repetitive facial expressions also cause premature aging. If you are constantly practicing facial exercises or expressions to either maintain a youthful-looking appearance, or want people to see what you really want to say, it is time you stop. Repetitive facial movements cause the development of fine lines and wrinkles. Every time your facial muscles move, grooves develop under the skin, which is why you may notice lines form with each facial expression. As we mature, our skin loses its elasticity and stops springing back to its line-free state, hence these grooves that are gradually developing become permanently etched on our faces as fine or deep lines and wrinkles.
Smoking on the whole is not good for you. Not only does it contribute to destroying your lungs and other internal organs, but it interferes with the normal growth and development of skin cells which speeds up aging. As a result, it helps in the formation of deeply wrinkled, leathery skin, and sometimes causes an unhealthy yellowish hue to appear.
Last but by no means least, certain beauty products that bleach, whiten, brighten or tone the face or body skin used regularly for prolonged periods can cause premature aging. It does this by drying out the skin, stripping it of essential moisture and disturbing the pigment cells so that an unnatural light complexion is obtained. Then, because the skin gradually becomes dry, it becomes more susceptible to premature wrinkling and to becoming more unevenly toned and sun sensitive. It is super important to always wear a sunblock to prevent further damage to the skin and precancerous development.

oDr. Rokeisha Clare-Kleinbussink studied at Cosmetology Cosmetic Training for Dermal Filler in London, UK and attended the Academy of Beauty Training for Laser and Microdermabrasion in Nottinghamshire, UK. She is also an associate lecturer of dermatology at the University of The West Indies. She has a private practice at Roseona House of General and Cosmetic Dermatology and can be reached at 422-2022.

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