BREVARD COUNTY — The more we look, the more we see, and such is the case for the number of local celebrities giving Brevard major bragging rights. The latest of these is Indian River Colony Club (IRCC) resident, Sybil Yocum.
Ms. Yocum has been selected to represent Viera in the Florida Senior America pageant on April 24. The winner will go on to represent Florida in the Ms. Senior America pageant later this year in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
The Ms. Senior America pageant prides itself in honoring women who have reached the “Age of Elegance.” Their philosophy is based upon the belief that seniors are the foundation of America and our most valuable treasure. The pageant winner best exemplifies the dignity, maturity, and inner beauty of all seniors. Let’s just say Ms. Yocum will certainly give her fellow contestants a run for their money. She’s proud to represent the Space Coast on the platform of organ donation.
“I am a bilateral lung transplant recipient,” said Ms. Yocum. “As a contestant for the Florida Senior America pageant, I seek to promote awareness for the continuing need for organ donation.” Her inspirational story is one of survival, robust optimism, and a contagious zest for life.
Ms. Yocum married her high school sweetheart 51 years ago this June. Having been stationed around the globe throughout her husband’s military career, Ms. Yocum caught the travel bug herself. When the pair settled in Charleston, South Carolina, she turned her joy of travel into a thriving business. Although she has since retired from the travel industry and as a water aerobics instructor, she is known to dabble in both for a small number of clients in and around her neighborhood.
The couple also share a love for avian creatures and had parrots as pets for many years. Unfortunately, the decades of handling her beloved birds led to Ms. Yocum developing Bird Fancier’s lung (BFL). BLF is a disease that can lead to permanent scar tissue damage. Shortly after moving to Florida (2013), Ms. Yocum began experiencing respiratory issues, which led to her diagnosis at the Mayo Clinic (MC) in Jacksonville. Her only viable treatment would be an organ transplant.
“Continuous use of oxygen and weekly O2 bottle deliveries became part of my new routine,” said Ms. Yocum. After about a year, Ms. Yocum underwent an extensive two-week evaluation before being accepted as an MC lung transplant recipient and placed in the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. However, she was informed she’d likely have to wait for years to “get the call” and only anticipate one lung, for two were doubtful.
Though some days were harder than others, Ms. Yocum’s positive outlook and cheerful nature saw her through. Surprisingly, only about a year later, in 2015, Ms. Yocum “got the call,” and she was luckily able to receive two lungs.
Although continual monitoring and specialized prescriptions will always be a part of her new life, Ms. Yocum has thrived and she is full of promise.
“I have been able to resume the life I enjoyed pre-transplant,” said Ms. Yocum, “The biggest change is waking up in the morning realizing each new day is a true blessing.”
The Florida Ms. Senior pageant takes place at the Poinciana Country Club in Lake Worth with a weekend of events in store. Contestants are scored by a panel of judges in four basic categories: Interviews, Inner Beauty (philosophy of life), Evening Gown, and Talent. Ms. Yocum’s talent? Belly-Dancing!
“My style of Oriental dance is more gypsy in nature,” exclaimed Ms. Yocum, “I will be performing a dance inspired by the Andalusian Romani people to the music of “Bandolero” by the Gypsy Kings.” The performance is doubly fascinating when you consider that Ms. Yocum is undergoing physical therapy for a hip replacement she received three weeks ago! The 74-year-old is a bevy of energy, to say the least. “Nothing is going to keep me down,” she said.
“While I look forward to the pageant experience and making new friends, I’m excited to use this opportunity to encourage seniors to keep expanding their horizons. I want to show them that a ‘normal’ and productive life is possible despite major setbacks,” implored Ms. Yocum. “More importantly, I hope to inspire people of all ages to sign up as organ donors. One person can support critical organ transplants for up to six patients in desperate need.”
Ms. Yocum is a pleasure to behold and truly lives life to the fullest. Let’s wish her well and wish her luck!
For information regarding the Ms. Senior America pageant, including tickets to the event and possible live-streaming, please visit http://senioramerica.org/. For more information regarding organ donation, please visit https://www.donatelifeflorida.org
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