We had the good fortune of connecting with TAMEKA NELSON and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi TAMEKA, what do you attribute your success to?
The most important factor success of my brand is. to educate, motivate and advocate for those. who are affected by Scleroderma and to spread awareness by being the change the world needs to see.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?

In 2012 , I first became aware of Scleroderma when I experienced breathing difficulties and coughing when sleeping. I thought I was experiencing a recurrence of bronchitis. My doctor agreed and prescribed medication which was ineffective. Then, one day at work I noticed significant swelling of my feet and a blue discoloration of my hands and feet. The rheumatologist I was referred to, examined my fingers and immediately diagnosed Scleroderma. The first
question I asked the doctor was, “Will I die?” The doctor “diplomatically” told me people could die from many diseases if they didn’t take care of themselves. Seeking clarification, I turned to the internet and noticed people who had lost limbs and who had become deformed. Understandably, I became depressed and wasn’t even able to get out of bed. I realized I needed to take- action. The idea of attending support groups worried me because I was concerned that I would only imagine that I had everything that they talked about. I decided to go on my first Scleroderma “Walk for a Cure”, and unfortunately not a positive experience.
I met a woman with a tracheotomy who was in a wheel chair who didn’t realize
that I was walking for herself because she “looked great”. Seeing this woman made me feel guilty for complaining about her own circumstances and I then begin wonder How am I supposed to look?” At a gathering after the walk, my aunt, Desiree Smalls, was talking with survivors who had suffered for years with Scleroderma and some had no finger tips, or deformed faces. I started Crying and I decided that I wasn’t going to attend any more walks. By the next year, I had gained more strength and knowledge and had begun using a lotion for dry, itching skin & joint pain. I immersed myself in the process and started my own lotion line called, Mee’kaa, which I sold and donated the proceeds to Scleroderma Foundation. I had turned my misfortune into a growing business and she soon found I couldn’t no longer accommodate the orders I received due to the high demand.

As I continued her Scleroderma journey, she decided to forgo traditional medications (I was taking 13 pills a day) and replaced them with natural supplements. Scleroderma has caused my lips to thin, and I suffer from rashes and skin pigmentation changes along with weight loss and swollen and thick hands. Despite this, I resumed the life I had and put the traumatizing impact of what I saw on the internet behind me. I no longer felt fearful and views Scleroderma as a superpower given to me by God and my purpose has become spreading awareness. This belief helps me cope. I have always felt a strong connection to music and dance. A particular song by Lyfe Jennings sent by a very close friend of mine, made me realize things could be so much worse and complaining about the manifestations of Scleroderma when others did, in fact, I have it so much worse, was not the path I wanted to take. This song spoke to me in a deep way and prompted me to create a brand of t-shirts in 2018b, called It Could Have Been Worse. I also tapped into her contacts with celebrities and began doing concerts with them, even dancing again.  I told my story at one of the concerts at a college and was amazed how other folks with illnesses began to tell their stories. I expanded my campaign to “All Illnesses Matter” and
continues to spread the word through performance and T-shirts and public speaking.

Besides the physical changes Scleroderma has wrought, it has impacted my family as well. In the beginning I didn’t tell my two
younger children, Tyler and Noah Hawkins, about her diagnosis for the first 4 years in order to shield them from worry, but I did share her diagnosis
with my oldest son, Brian Hawkins. As a result, he left college in order to be near her, and never went back.

I didn’t allow Scleroderma to change her life. I continue to dance, is active with her kids, works, takes vacations, and generally, just goes with the flow. I just added educating people and spreading awareness to my repertoire. I describe my mission as learning about my body and educating myself about my disease so that I remain motivated and have the knowledge to motivate others. I advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves and who are looking for someone to provide support for what they are going through. I never imagined the impact I would have on others. After  my 1st  Scleroderma concert I supported a group of 7 African American women who asked me to speak to them as a motivator and to educate them about Scleroderma.
I don’t want anyone to feel sympathy for me, but rather to have empathy and show support and understand what other people are going through. I believe this will make the world a better place and is proud to be a part of it. My advice?
Always remember “It Could Have Been Worse”

Tameka Nelson

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Monday- Spa (Massage, Meditation) @JeJu Spa in ATL

Tuesday- Taco Tuesday’s @Colony Square In Atl

Wednesday- WIse Wednesday’s (We read educational books that help us improve ourselves to become better.
Relax independant day

Thursday- Throwback Thursday ( We go dress up throwback style and shop for all throwback items at the Mall (Throwback Scavenger hunt at the mall.

Friday- Freaky Friday Dancing Republic Lounge in ATL R&B night

Saturday-Stone Mountain Camping Saturday

Spiritual healing ( Bible reading, church)
Sunday Dinner @mi casa

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to dedicate my shout out to :

My mother, Arleen Mathias for inspiring me to be great and giving me great advise though the challenges that life brings.
My sister, Asha Nelson, for your creativity and input in helping me building my brand.
My brother, Storm Mathias for creating such an amazing dance routine to prepare me for my 1st Scletoderma Awareness Concert.
My children, for being understanding, caring and loving during the time I needed it the most.
My Best Friend, Janell for always being there during the late night hours, listening to my cries and giving me spiritual guidance.
My Business Advisor, D, Lee thank you for giving great advise in launching “It Coulda Been Worse and Mee’Kaa Inc. and being there to answer all my questions no matter the time of day.

To all my It Coulda Been Worse Supporters, thank you all for the love and support.


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Image Credits
Photo credit: Mitchel Media Visual

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