Cockroaches help 10-year-old Claremore, Oklahoma girl cope with Neurofibromatosis

Posted at 8:30 PM, Feb 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-08 12:03:24-05

CLAREMORE, Okla. -- A Claremore 10-year-old has a love for cockroaches.

Shelby Counterman can play with her stuffed animals, but they don't play back. Her cockroaches do.

She keeps them in plastic bins. Counterman fell in love with roaches when she was a toddler.

"I'm pretty sure it was because of my nickname as a baby," she said.

That name was "Scuttlebug." Counterman was destined for cockroaches. Her mom and dad are still adjusting. 

"When I play with them, I usually grab handfuls and torture my parents with them when we clean," she said.

Counterman has different kinds of exotic cockroaches. She has about 7,000.

"I actually pick each one up and sometimes they'll hiss," Counterman said.

The 10-year-old likes to hiss back. Counterman says some sleep in her room. They're her dream catchers

"Last year, I had this really bad cold and my parents thought it was my roaches," she said. "It turned out it wasn't. So I had to fight to get them back in my room."

Counterman has Neurofibromatosis. Her spine is severely curved. She wears a leg brace to help with her posture.

"I've had this brace since I was 18-months-old," she said.

She's getting surgery in April at the Shriner's Hospital in St. Louis. The roaches help her in more ways than one.

"I sell some of the roaches to people who need to feed their pets," Counterman said. "With the money I get, I'm putting it in my college fund. "I have so many so I can feed my pets. My bearded dragon eats 100 a day. My leopard gecko eats five."

These may scare some people, but for Counterman it's how she escapes from her daily struggle.

Counterman will be apart of the Amazing Pageant in Oklahoma City in March. It's for other kids like her. She'll tell her story to other contestants. She hopes to bring her roaches with her.

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