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In studio with us today we have model, spokesperson and MS advocate, Camerone Parker, who just recently started talking about her Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis and her career comeback against the odds.
Camerone’s journey with MS started the day she and four other models became seriously ill. They were rushed to the hospital with meningitis. Camerone was treated for weeks for spinal meningitis, an extremely painful illness. Several tests were run and during this time, she found out she had Multiple Sclerosis.
With the help of her family she started looking at what that meant. At age 32, she told her doctor, “You just signed my death warrant”.
Together, she and her family decided to fight.
Camerone chose to keep the diagnosis a secret. She had no insurance. She didn’t want her modelling career ruined.
Over the years, her illness and the side effects became harder to keep secret. She got married in 2002 and started to slow down in her career. Camerone was also coming out of remission. It was getting harder to attend her charity events and she never wanted anyone to see her and think she was drunk.
In 2009, Camerone Parker finally trusted a journalist with her story. She says, “You have to be in the right place and right mind and space.” She was ready.
Telling her story was both freeing and frightening. The journalist was following Camerone through her treatment, showing her side effects. Camerone was exposed but determined to show her courage in battling MS. Especially since she says, “75% of all new MS diagnosis are women”.
When the magazine came out, Camerone received international support through cards, letters, emails, and text messages. She no longer lived in fear of someone finding out her secret or of being judged.
Camerone says, “It was awesome to have that support and it kept going”. She was approached by the National MS Society to tell her incredible story, which she tells through her laughter and tears.
The hardest thing, the most painful part of having MS is having your diagnosis questioned. Camerone goes on to say that no two patients with MS are the same and with MS you don’t look sick. People don’t see her the day after she walks the runway and she can’t get out of bed, or the cataract surgeries, or the side effects of the medication. People don’t know that with MS you can go blind.
In April 2011, Camerone spoke at the Women Against MS event. This was going to be the last time she would be seen in public for a very long time. Her marriage had come apart. Her illness was spinning out of control, both mentally and physically. She says she felt at the bottom edge of death.
Camerone now had to fight for her life. In January 2012, she was admitted to the hospital. “I didn’t want to die,” she says. Camerone didn’t know how she would do it, but she says she knew it was “get up or give up.”
Broken, she had to get back to the top. Camerone surrounded herself with a great team of doctors, her family and her friends. Through their encouragement and challenges, she came back, slowly. She received positive feedback and affirmations from the fashion industry. She set goals, and even though it took her several years, she struggled her way back.
Camerone Parker is now living her dream. She will be getting married soon but she says, “My dream came true when I said, I don’t want to die”. She feels her work on this planet is not done.