Breast Cancer With Help From Our Friends

Patti Handel is a four-time cancer survivor.

“’Cancer’ is the scariest word in the English language,” she said. “But it’s only part of us. It doesn’t define us.

The 61-year-old from Irmo shares words of wisdom at monthly meetings of Woman to Woman, Lexington Medical Center’s support group for breast cancer survivors.

Handel started attending Woman to Woman meetings after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2007, just one month after she and her husband moved to Irmo from Long Island, New York.

Patti Handel and Brenda Osteen at the West Columbia Riverwalk

Patti Handel and Brenda Osteen at the West Columbia Riverwalk

“I didn’t have a South Carolina driver’s license yet and I needed an oncologist, surgeon and other doctors. It was overwhelming.”

So, she found comfort – and new friends in a new town – at the support group, which is designed to offer companionship to women who are recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

At Woman to Woman, cancer survivors share their experiences, learn about the latest treatment options and swap tips including how pickle juice seems to help cure chemotherapy-induced nausea.

That’s where Patti met Brenda Osteen in 2010.

Brenda, age 67, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 after a mammogram. The Lexington resident endured a mastectomy, chemotherapy and reconstruction.

At the meetings, Patti and Brenda hit it off.

“Patti’s been where I’ve been,” Brenda said. “You can’t explain cancer to someone who hasn’t gone through it. It’s like trying to explain a migraine to someone who never had a headache.”

When you see Patti and Brenda together, you can tell they’re close. Both impeccably dressed, they laugh like college friends and share jokes and stories that make you laugh from your belly.

From trading bestsellers they’ve read to talking about their grandchildren while sipping a cocktail at a weekly dinner, they understand each other well.

“We need friends to hold hands with, laugh with and cry with,” Patti said.

Patti especially needed Brenda’s support after a cancer recurrence in her leg in 2010, and another in her abdomen and pelvis one year ago.

Brenda and Patti

Brenda and Patti

“When it came back, I was mad as a hornet,” Patti said.

Patti has had chemotherapy three times and lost her hair twice. She’s monitored every 8 weeks, with scans every three months.

Brenda has inspired Patti to stay positive.

“We get up, put on our makeup, lipstick and earrings – and head out. Life is too precious to waste,” Brenda said.

Kelly Jeffcoat, breast cancer nurse navigator at Lexington Medical Center, runs the Woman to Woman support group at the hospital. As a breast cancer survivor herself, she has a first-hand understanding of the group’s experience.

“This crazy, horrible thing called breast cancer ends up giving you these beautiful relationships,” she said.

Having a cheering section during cancer is important. Studies have shown that women with friends who support them through their cancer journey may experience better outcomes.

Patti and Brenda count Kelly as a big part of the cheering section.

“Kelly is instrumental in the treatment, care and recovery of women going through breast cancer,” Patti said. “Kelly can really say, ‘I know how you feel. I understand.’”

Patti and Brenda will attend Women’s Night Out on October 14, Lexington Medical Center’s annual dinner that recognizes October as breast cancer awareness month and honors cancer survivors and their families. More than 900 people attend each year.

The event includes a silent auction, physician exhibits, fashion show featuring models who are breast cancer survivors, dinner and a talk with keynote speaker Kate Larsen. A breast cancer survivor, Larsen will talk about the importance of friendship during cancer treatment.

For more information about Women’s Night Out or to purchase tickets, visit or call Lexington Medical Center Community Outreach at (803) 936-8850.

The Woman to Woman support group at Lexington Medical Center meets on the 4th Thursday of each month at 5:00 p.m. inside the Women’s Imaging lobby at 2728 Sunset Boulevard in West Columbia. That’s Lexington Medical Park 1 on the hospital campus. The support group is free and open to any woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, regardless of where she has received her treatment.

For more information about Lexington Medical Center’s cancer services, visit

Tiny Handcuff

By: Lara Winburn

Before you read this you should know I might be carefully tiptoeing on to a soap box. **Consider yourself warned.** But I am genuinely confused about a recent revelation. Maybe you can help?

marriageIn the past couple of weeks, I have heard more than one tale of people who remove their wedding bands when they go out on the town. Men and women alike decide it is more “fun” when they are on a girls’ night or a boys’ night to strip themselves of this outward symbol of marriage and, I can only assume, also their inhibitions.

I have been thinking about this, and I am both annoyed and confused by this behavior. I mean, my husband and I have referred to our wedding rings as “the smallest handcuff in the world.” But we joke. (Seriously, just jokes.) Not to mention, it would take a hack saw or a tiny bullet to shoot my ring off this pudgy finger, which does make it a little like a handcuff.

With this trend, I am concerned about a few unsuspecting souls. (Now obviously, if this “fun” behavior is agreed upon by both parties…whatever floats your boat, people. My boring self will stick with keeping my ring on at girls’ night.) But if this is in secret, what about the husband or wife that is out of town on business or at home with the kids? Are people just throwing caution to the wind and their wedding ring in the jewelry box? (I mean, where do you keep it?) Is someone considering how their spouse might feel about this missing accessory?

But there is something else that outrages me. What about those people out there who are truly trying to find that someone special and they find….somebody else’s someone special. Is it really fair to trick those people? Why bring them into whatever unhappiness you are breeding? Even if this is the agreement you have with your spouse, my friend looking for Mr. Right is not part of this agreement and does not deserve Mr. I-Don’t-Wear-My-Ring-Sometimes.

Mostly, I really just do not get it. I am making some assumptions here, but nothing too drastic, so bear with me.

  1. You choose to get married; it was not some arranged commitment that involved a dowry and some goats.
  2. I am not going to promote nor dissuade divorce. We live in a place where that is a real and – from what I understand – relatively manageable process.
  3. Doesn’t it feel just a little bit like a Lifetime movie or a bad sitcom to “Go out on the town and take your wedding ring off?” I am just annoyed that I have heard this tawdry tale before and did not think it was really a common practice of people I know.
  4. Isn’t life, marriage, love, jobs, kids, laundry, and an iCloud complicated enough? Don’t you already feel like you are barely keeping up? Call me lazy, but this ruse just seems like more work.

With recent debates about who should and should not be allowed to get married (another discussion for another day), shouldn’t you just put your tiny handcuff back on before somebody gets hurt?

What is Feminism, Really?

By: Shannon Shull

Shannon ShullThe great Maya Angelou once said, “I’m a feminist. I’ve been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side.”

The definition of feminism:

: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities

: organized activity in support of women’s rights and interests

In going by the true definition of feminism, I am proud to call myself a feminist. I definitely believe that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. Period. Like Maya Angelou, I, too, whole-heartedly believe that it would be stupid not to be on my own side.

But… and here comes the big BUT… today the word “feminist” has been skewed, distorted. People have taken the term and infused it with new meaning – and not in the best way…. Ladies and gentlemen, society needs to be reminded of the true definition of feminism and get back to the core, which is simply based on equality.

Beyoncé was quoted in British Vogue, hesitant to describe herself as a feminist, saying,

“That word can be very extreme. But I guess I am a modern-day feminist. I do believe in equality. Why do you have to choose what type of woman you are? Why do you have to label yourself as anything? I’m just a woman and I love being a woman.”

That was back in 2013. Now, Queen Bey is supposedly standing tall for equality, saying this past January,

“We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn’t a reality yet.”

However, according to her 16-minute performance on the MTV VMA’s it may NEVER be a reality. Yea, thanks Beyoncé, nice try, but you’ve missed the mark TOTALLY…unless the official definition of feminism has changed to the belief that women should act as sexual objects, demeaning themselves publically.

Sure, the image of a beautiful, tough woman in front of huge, glowing letters that spell “FEMINIST” is a powerful and even empowering visual. But cut to the earlier visual of her and her half-naked dancers gyrating onstage to highly suggestive lyrics (all while her precious toddler girl is watching on) and well, that tough feminist image is disgustingly tainted and so way off the mark it’s mindboggling. I bet those incredible women from history who risked their lives to stand up for women’s rights are literally rolling in their graves!

Most women are hesitant to speak of feminism, fearful of how people will take it and if they’ll suffer a brutal backlash. That’s because the meaning of feminism has become so skewed. This public display of supposed “feminists” is confusing our generation and the generations to come, I’m afraid. Blogger Mollie Hemingway nails it with this piece, “Feminism or Sexism,” in which she states, “feminism right now is an incoherent mess of double standards.” (Also, here is a link to Hemingway’s interview on Fox News. Start at the 25-second mark.)

I agree. Quite frankly, according to pop culture, being a feminist seems to equate with being promiscuous. Ugh, it makes my stomach turn just typing it, but gosh does it seem true. What it comes down to is knowledge, and right now it seems that our society is lacking that knowledge. We all need to be educated! Not just us women, but men too. We need to educate ourselves on what feminism really means. We need to look back at the women and men of history who fought for equality and stood for the true definition of feminism.

Recently, actress Emma Watson made headlines with a UN speech. She stated,

“Feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists.”

It comes down to a fear of seeming unattractive and aggressive, even a man hater. She brings up some pretty crucial points on the issue.

I personally think she is a brave young lady and I applaud her. She has helped to get the conversation going and get people thinking. Unfortunately though, she is suffering the backlash of the ignorant people who choose to attack her. I believe, whether you agree with her or not, that she did not hurt the cause. Was her speech a game changer? I’m not sure. It may not be allowed to be because the media is too busy focusing on the drama instead of focusing on the positivity in her message and how it can empower everyone who is open to listen and take it in.

Freelance writer Clementine Ford brings up some very important points on the topic. She states,


“These are not facts that exist because men have thus far been “denied” entry into feminist debate and activism. They won’t disappear “naturally” when men are empowered to be sensitive. They exist because patriarchal power hinges on the subjugation of women, and anything that distracts from that is a liability to the cause.

I love that Emma Watson has bravely put herself on the line as a proud feminist. It’s wonderful that she may be instrumental in inspiring millions more to consider these issues. Bravo to her. But to be truly game changing, you have to actually change the game. And while it is important for men to choose to be allies, addressing actual systemic inequality through the funding of programs which empower and defend women’s sexual, economic and political rights is the only way to ensure women have a chance at winning.”

Wow. Yet another case of a writer nailing it, I think. Again, what it comes down to is education. And we should not stoop so low as to allow pop culture to define what it supposedly means to be a feminist. We have to truly educate ourselves so that as an individual seeking equal rights, we can empower ourselves to make our own decisions based on facts and truth, and wholly represent the meaning behind feminism.

It goes along with not being too quick to judge, which is an issue I’ve written about before. We must educate ourselves before we condemn or slam others. I will stand with Maya Angelou and say, yes, I choose to be on my own side. As an intelligent, strong woman, it would be silly not to. And I will back up that statement with an educated response, that I stand for, about what the true meaning of feminism is, which is simply the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. I urge you to take the time to check out my links and educate yourself on the issue. I know I am glad that I did.




The Joy of Being a Godmother

By: Chaunte McClure

For a woman who doesn’t hold the Mommy title, I’ve been doing a lot talk about babies. Though I haven’t given birth to any, I love those cute, cuddly blessings that God has given to others.

He’s blessed me with godchildren whom I love dearly. They’re no longer babies, but they’re still cute, and sometimes they can be cuddly. Parents, I’m sure you understand that when they become tweens, they’re not interested in all that mushy stuff.

My husband and I have the privilege of being the godparents of three awesome kids. Of course I’m biased, but hey, they are ours. While we were engaged, my friend Traci asked us to be her twins’ (a boy and a girl) godparents. Matter of fact, I remember holding them in my arms at our wedding reception. We even had them at church on the day our pastor announced that we were getting married. (Of course he had to make it clear that the babies we were holding were not ours.) Now they can (almost) hold me in their arms.

My goddaughter

My goddson









The years have gone by so quickly and we’ve gone from changing diapers and listening to the girl exercise her lungs with loud, continuous crying when Mom and Dad would leave them with us to have some Mom and Dad time together, to attending school programs and sports events. Sigh … how quickly they grew up, but they’re still my babies.

Our youngest goddaughter stole my heart the moment I held her. That was love at first sight! I even think my husband was jealous of the bond I have with her. (He’ll never admit it, though.) I think that grip on my heart had something to do with me being in the delivery room when she arrived, holding her tightly-wrapped body and looking into those beautiful eyes as they adjusted to being outside of the womb. Fast forward four years and it melts my heart to hear her say “Mommy” when she’s not even addressing me. I’m “TaTa” to her, by the way. When she was learning how to talk, she couldn’t quite say Chaunté, so TaTa is the result. Works for me!

My goddaughter

Though life often times gets in the way and I don’t always get to do the things I want to with them or for them, this is my vow to each of them:

Being a godmother

I love being a godmother and I love these kids more than they’ll ever know! I love your kids, too.

In my next post, I’ll introduce you to the friend that I mentioned in my last post, You Have the Right to Remain Silent.