By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published May 9, 2013
ATLANTA—When St. Pius X senior Amanda Cameron was diagnosed with progressive mitochondrial myopathy in December 2010, she thought her high school career was over. Now she is preparing to graduate and feels blessed to have had such a “perfect” senior year.
“I almost dropped out of high school,” she said, recalling her reaction the day she received her diagnosis. “That was really hard.”
“I remember sitting in the waiting room and knowing that my life would never be the same, and I was totally right,” she said, adding that it took her over a year to become comfortable with her situation.
Mitochondrial myopathy is a condition that inhibits the production of adenosine triphosphate in the mitochondria in the cells, which is a person’s source of energy. Her treatment primarily included rest, as well as being connected to a machine that stimulates muscles for up to seven hours daily.
Since that time, Cameron has dedicated herself to taking control of her health through diet and exercise. The beaming smile that seems permanently affixed on her face testifies that she has been successful. Her circumstances have even inspired her to pursue a career in medicine as she researched her condition and became fascinated with the inner workings of the human body.
Cameron will enter the University of Georgia in Athens this fall and plans to study biochemistry and molecular biology, with hopes of becoming a medical doctor.
“I think what made me more interested in it was just my own experience with my physical health,” she said. “When I was researching stuff about my own health and seeing how those minute biochemical details, how much of an effect they have on a large scale, that just opened up a new world to me.”
Cameron also has gained a new appreciation for the importance of family and faith as both have played a profound role in her journey over the last few years. When she experienced a feeling of being alone following her diagnosis, her family was there to encourage her.
“I know family is really important,” she said. “Not a lot of people want to be involved when something so serious happens and you realize that your mom, your dad, your sister—those were the main helpers in my life,” she said.
She is the daughter of Alice and Robert Cameron. Her sister, Anna, is a sophomore at St. Pius High School in Atlanta, and the family attends St. Monica Church in Duluth.
Cameron feels that her Catholic faith played a role in helping her overcome some of her struggles.
“(Faith) definitely changes how you perceive everything,” she said.
As she reflects on her four years at St. Pius X, she is grateful for her family, her friends, and the staff at the school. She feels the teachers and administrators do a very good job of reaching the individual students and understanding each student’s situation.
The archdiocesan Catholic school definitely recognizes that there is something special about this young woman. She was awarded the Holly Gulesserian Scholarship, which is given to the student who exhibits patience, courage, faith and outstanding kindness. The scholarship honors a member of the class of 1992, Holly Gulesserian, who struggled with illness and heart disease throughout her four years at St. Pius. After her death in 1993, her family established the memorial scholarship.
“In my 10 years of counseling students, I cannot recall another student for whom I have as much admiration as Amanda Cameron,” wrote Dr. Meredith Miller, school counselor. “Amanda personifies resilience, determination, courage, grace, and dignity. Her work ethic, focus and integrity, coupled with innate intelligence and wisdom uncommon among her peers, make her an exceptional young person.”
As Cameron looks ahead, she is excited about the independence college offers. She is also energized at the thought of facing another challenge and knows she can meet it head on.
“I love a good challenge, and I just can’t wait to be challenged in every facet. And I feel like UGA is going to meet my expectations, and I’m ready,” she said.