The 2020 Dr. Bonnie Cameron Post-Secondary Scholarship will be available soon. Please visit https://runanthropic.org/scholarship/to view and complete the new online application form.
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We would like to congratulate our 2019 winner – Aurora Tupechka.
My name is Aurora Tupechka. I am now 20 years old and going into my 4th year of university as a biology major. Since I was young, I had aspired to be a veterinarian and I felt most at home with the animals on our family’s farm. We raised cattle and pigs, along with numerous barn kittens and farm dogs. Our family eventually sold the farm along with the land and the equipment, but we kept our acreage along with our dogs and cats. Once in high school, my mom and dad began taking in orphaned calves from the feedlot they both worked at. We would rehabilitate and feed them so farmers from all over Alberta could adopt them as replacement calves for cows in their herds who’d lost their own calves. I loved helping with this. I would carry the calves from the pens at the feedlots, tube and bottle feed, vaccinate, and of course provide them with as much love as I could. The work was hard, but there was nothing more rewarding than receiving updates on the calves who were striving with their new mothers.
I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, right at the time when my life was changing in a huge way. I moved away from my family and our animals to attend university with the hopes of completing my requirements to apply for vet school. The symptoms of my condition caught me off guard and impacted my social life, academic career, and mental health. When my hands became numb and stiff and the joints in my arms and legs were painful to move, I knew something was wrong. I underwent all kinds of tests while struggling to work the way I used to. I began catching colds constantly and battling with other seemingly unrelated ailments such as fatigue and infections. My family doctor put me on different medications to help control the mysterious symptoms. Unfortunately, these medications greatly affected my mental health. It was hard to adjust to the beginning of a life on my own when I was constantly sick and also dealing with the side effects of drugs I was on. When I was finally diagnosed it felt like I saw a light at the end of a tunnel. There was a name for my condition. I could finally do something about the way I was feeling.
Being a university student in such a competitive program is hard enough without a chronic condition. I’ve continued on my path as a biology major, and although I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I may never be a veterinarian due to this condition, RA has pushed me to understand myself further. I still want to pursue a career in the health science field, but I’ve learned that I also have a passion for helping other people as well as animals. I hope to one day be in a position to help young people in science and by doing so, I may be given the opportunity to teach others about RA and how to overcome it at a young age.
I’m very fortunate that there is a treatment for RA. Having an older brother who fought Juvenile Huntington’s for the first 15 years of my life, I realized that not everyone has the option to live a relatively normal life when they’re battling a disease. Despite my treatment being very successful, I still have to deal with symptoms that my peers do not. Through it all I have found ways to overcome these struggles. When I realized my hands were unable to write through 3-hour exams, I worked with my university to find alternative ways for me write tests. To overcome fatigue and brain fog I’ve taken on more courses in the fine arts program as my electives and extended my program to 5 years. I’m happy to say that I’ve been on the Dean’s list every year so far and I don’t plan to change that!
Throughout my grade school years, I loved playing sports and even with RA symptoms I continue to do so. I’ve joined a competitive volleyball league during the school year and play beach volleyball in the summer. Volleyball is a way for me to let off stress and it gives me an immense sense of accomplishment to push through any pain or fatigue I’m having and help my team score. Ironically, my position has always been the setter, but I don’t let my RA stop me from continuing with this position.
I still love helping my parents with their cows, cats, and dogs. I plan to have my own farm one day with many animals and possibly rescue animals. I won’t let my condition get me down, I know everyone deals with their own challenges and I can overcome mine as well. Rheumatoid arthritis has taught me that even when life throws you a curve ball, you can still hit a home run if you change your perspective a little.
Click here to review the 2019 application requirements. Dr Bonnie Cameron Post-Secondary Scholarship 2019
Purpose and Award
The Dr. Bonnie Cameron Post-Secondary Scholarship program is in its fifth year and hopes to assist students living with arthritis in achieving their educational goals. It is presented by Runanthropic.org in honour of the inspiring work and dedication of Dr. Cameron and the entire Rheumatology staff at SickKids Hospital. The scholarship award is $2,500.