One Day At A Time
Living with an invisible illness doesn't slow CeCe Hillman down
Wednesday, April 9, 2014 1:00 AM
CeCe Hillman is determined to compete in the Miss Mississippi pageant and she won't let anything, even illness, stop her.
CeCe Hillman has dealt with much since being diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), but she has persevered and will be competing in the Miss Mississippi pageant in Vicksburg in June.
The daughter of Tommy and Bobbie Kay Waddell and Drew Hillman, she will compete June 5-12 in Vicksburg in the Miss Mississippi pageant.
"I've always dreamed of competing in the Miss America pageant, and I was fortunate to win Outstanding Teen," she said. "But when I became sick, I thought that idea was out the door."
In January 2012, CeCe became ill, suffering from a bevy of symptoms including fatigue, joint pain, brain fog and seizures.
In March, that same year, she was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), a form of dysautonomia that affects the involuntary responses in the body. It is also incurable.
CeCe added that in the two months from when symptoms started to when she was diagnosed, she visited the emergency room 20 times.
The illness not only affected CeCe's health, but also her school work and life. At the time, she was a freshman psychology major at Mississippi State University. Unfortunately, when she got sick, she had to stop going to school.
"It was so bad that some of the doctors were telling me that I would never be able to do anything with my life," CeCe said.
"They told me I should go get on disability."
However, CeCe refused to give up and thanks to a bevy of prescription medications to treat the symptoms, her life his gotten back on track.
"It's matured me," she said. "I feel it's been a blessing in disguise. I've seen myself grow."
CeCe was even able to return to school and has maintained a 4.0 GPA her freshman and sophomore years.
"I've gotten my life back as close to normal as possible," she said.
The illness, CeCe said, will always be a part of her life, but she's embraced it.
As part of the Miss Mississippi pageant, each contestant is tasked with having a platform to raise awareness. CeCe chose invisible illness support and awareness.
"It was the obvious platform," she said. "Up to 133 million Americans are affected by invisible illnesses, such as Lupus or Chronic Fatigue."
CeCe's platform is just a small, but important, part of what she has to do to compete for the Miss Mississippi title.
Also for the pageant, CeCe will have a private interview with judges, compete in the lifestyle, fitness and swimsuit portion, present her talent, evening wear and answer an on-stage question.
"I'm a vocalist and will be singing 'Mercy' by Duffy, a Pop/Rock song, as my talent," she said. "It's different because most vocalists perform ballads or opera, classical music."
To prepare for the pageant, CeCe follows a strict schedule that includes school, extracurricular activities, appearances and pageants.
In an effort to accomplish her goals, CeCe combines many tasks.
"I'll workout and listen to the news as a way to study for the on-stage question," she said.
One of her extracurricular activities is a jewelry line called Pearls of Hope.
Each piece is handmade from sterling silver and pearls.
CeCe makes them with her mother and even has a table set up at her mother's jewelry store, Bobby's Jewelry.
"We make them for all ages," she said, "but soon we'll put out some for younger girls."
CeCe noted that all of the proceeds from the sales of Pearls of Hope are donated to Dysautonomia Youth Network of America, Inc. (DYNA).
"The work has made me a more capable person and I always plan to do my best. I will give it my all and my health won't hold me back."
CeCe shared several of her favorite recipes with our readers.
CHEESY BACON DIP
2 cups sour cream
2 cups shredded cheese
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 package real crumbled bacon
8 ounce cream cheese, softened
Heat oven to 375. In a bowl combine all ingredients. Place in a 1-quart baking dish. Cover and heat for 30 minutes. Serve with tostido chips, crackers, or fresh vegetables.
SAUSAGE AND CHEESE ROLL UPS
1 roll of mild sausage
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups of shredded mixed cheese
2 cans of crescent rolls
Preheat oven to 325. Cook sausage and drain, crumble sausage, mix with cream cheese and shredded cheese. Roll out crescent rolls and fill with about 1 tablespoon and roll up and bake until crescent rolls are light golden brown.
1 bag of spinach leaves
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup fresh strawberries quartered
1 bottle of Catalina dressing
Mix ingredients and serve with catalina dressing and ritz crackers
BUFFALO CHICKEN DIP
1 large can of canned chicken (white meat) drained
1 large bag of shredded mixed cheese
1/4 cup Louisiana hot sauce
1 bag of Tostito chips
Preheat oven to 375. Mix ingredients and put in a glass casserole dish spread thinly. Bake for approximately 30 minutes until bubbly. Serve with wheat thins or Tostito chips.
1 package of croissants
1 can of crushed pineapple in heavy syrup (drained)
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese softened
Combine drained pineapple and cream cheese until smooth then slice croissants and spread mixture.
You can serve as whole croissants or cut into four or five bite size croissants.
STRAWBERRY AND PRETZEL SALAD
2 2/3 cup chopped pretzels
1 1/2 sticks margarine
3 tablespoon sugar
2 8-ounce cream cheese softened
1 cup sugar
1 small cool whip
2 packages strawberry jello
2 cups hot water
1 large box frozen strawberries
Cream butter and 3 tablespoons. sugar; stir in pretzels to mix well. Press into bottom of 13x9 dish and bake for ten minutes at 350. Let cool thoroughly.
Mix cream cheese and 1 cup sugar and 1/2 of the cool whip (this is your second layer).
Mix jello, water and strawberries and allow to thicken slightly before adding third layer. Top with remaining cool whip.