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Candace S.

By Candace's mom, Tina

Candace Brooke Shelton

Wise, Virginia

My life changed forever one beautiful September morning as my first born daughter, Candace Brooke, was born. She was absolutely perfect and I loved her onsite. As her father and I were driving her home from the hospital, I remember thinking how amazing this day was.

Candace was such a special child; she was a pleaser. She loved to make people happy and feel good. She made friends easily and people loved to be around her. I don't know how many times she would come home from school without something because she gave it to someone simply because they liked it.

Candace did keep a lot inside too and would hide her pain in many different ways. When she was going through adolescence, she began to eat to cover the pain she felt. She struggled a lot with insecurities. Her father and I divorced when she was just eight years old. Candace went to live with her father, and felt abandoned by me.

In her early twenties, Candace married, but separated after only a few months. She was dealing with identity issues and decided to confirm what I already knew - she was gay. Candace never wanted to disappoint anyone and she felt like she was letting people down. This led to a lot of wrong decisions including drinking, doing drugs at the same time texting and driving one night which led to a near fatal car accident. She had flipped her vehicle several times and was in critical condition with lots of internal injuries. They had to amputate her left leg and she was in a coma for almost two months. We almost lost her several times during this time. I stood by Candace’s hospital bed day after day, praying for a miracle.

Finally it happened, defying all odds - she woke up. The nurses called her their "miracle girl.” But then Candace had to come to the reality that her life had changed dramatically; she could no longer walk. She struggled with trying to adjust to a different way of life. She tried a prosthetic leg, but due to the injuries in her right leg, she never really gained use of it. She left the hospital on lots of medication, including morphine and Fentanyl patches. Candace was weaned off those drugs, but it was the beginning of the addiction that would eventually end her life.

Candace continued with pain medications, but at this time she was prescribed Oxycodone, and later Xanax for anxiety. Afterwards, she had moved in with a person she had met on Facebook and they were in a relationship. It wasn't the best situation for Candace because this person was abusing substances; adding fuel to the flame.

Candace sent me a text on a Monday night asking me to drive her to her doctor’s appointment the next day. I told her I was not able to and we ended up arguing. Her friend argued with me as well, and I felt disrespected. The dispute did not end well; I basically told Candace I wanted nothing further to do with her as long as she was staying with this person.

Candace ended up finding a way to the doctors, where she was prescribed more pain medication and Xanax. She texted me that evening, but I was being stubborn and was going to let her stew for a bit. It was the day before Thanksgiving and thought I would just make-up with her when we were together. But that day never came.

I received a call around 3 AM Thanksgiving morning that Candace had passed away that night from an overdose. The autopsy confirmed that Candace had taken lethal doses of both her medications. Apparently she had started to overdose the previous day, falling out of her wheelchair. The people Candace was with kept putting her back to bed, instead of calling 911; they were afraid of getting Candace's medications taken away. The girl Candace was living with overdosed just two days later on the same medication that Candace had.

My life changed forever Thanksgiving morning in 2013. I was a mother who has lost her first born daughter. The funeral and the first few weeks after are still a blur. It will be going on three years this November. The pain has not lessened at all. I don't want another family member to have to suffer the way we have over this horrible disease of addiction.

Forever Candace's Mom


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