A Fight We Can Win

The Prisma Health Midlands Foundation 2019 Walk for Life

By Dawn Hunt

It seemed like the voice was ready to share good news…

July 3, 2013 – I remember waiting all day for the call. It was a long day. Why was I waiting? My annual mammogram had been June 26th, the day before my 45th birthday. As I had done for the past five years, I left my appointment happy it was over and confident all was fine.

Two days later on Friday, June 28th, an unexpected letter arrived. There was an irregularity and I needed a second mammogram. I was asked to schedule a follow-up appointment. As fast as I could dial the number, I made the call and was scheduled for Tuesday, July 2nd. Surely, the doctors were being careful, erring on the side of caution.

The day of my appointment, things seemed to move so quickly. The nurse completed the mammogram, reviewed it with the doctor and informed me he did not think there was any problem. To be safe, he wanted to complete an ultrasound. During that ultrasound, they confirmed no issue in the initial area of concern. What he did find was a new area of interest, and he wanted to biopsy the area. When? They checked their schedule and could do it within the hour. While I waited, I called my husband, David, with an update. He offered to come sit with me, to support me, to help reassure me. I told him I was fine and knew all would be okay.

Following the biopsy, I was told, they would call me by 4:30pm or 5pm the next afternoon. Waking up on July 3rd, I knew I needed to stay busy. I knew no matter what happened, David and I were in this together and could handle anything, so I did not want to appear worried.

Our son, Lennon, would turn 11 on July 11th and start middle school in August. Luckily for me, I worked from home and had some flexibility. As I worked, the morning flew past. As noon rolled around, Lennon and I decided to go to a movie for a distraction. Spending time with my beautiful son felt like the best way not allow myself to actively think about the pending call.

At 3:45pm, thoughts began to creep in. I spoke with David, and he said he was coming home early to be with us. David wanted to be there to support me, and I needed him. I told him that, if I had not received a call by 4:30pm, I would call the office.

Around 4:20pm, the phone rang. I was sitting on our bed, David standing in front of me. The voice on the phone asked to speak with Dawn Hunt. Speaking. The nurse asked me if I was ready to hear the results. Her voice sounded positive and calming, almost upbeat. I was not prepared for, “I am sorry, you are positive for cancer.” She said they would send the records to my gynecologist and everything would then proceed through her.

I don’t know what my husband saw on my face, but the news felt like a punch to my stomach. What did I know about cancer, treatment, survival, support? Nothing. No one close to me had ever been diagnosed with breast cancer. What did this mean for our family?

We were leaving the next morning to meet family and friends in Charleston, SC for the 4th of July. Should I say anything? What should I say? I waited. I was so uninformed. I wanted to be strong and stay positive, but could only do that with a clear path forward. My decision was to share if I needed to, but to have a plan before I said too much, too soon.

Ultimately, two tumors were identified in my left breast. After two surgeries, six chemotherapy treatments and 36 radiation treatments, I am cancer-free, six years and counting. My story is not unique, but it is a testament to early detection and the benefits of technological advancements and amazing doctors and nurses. By catching my cancer early, I drastically improved my chance to win the fight.

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. As a survivor, sharing my story and the stories of others is so important to engaging people in this fight. If your life has not been touched by breast cancer — either your own diagnosis, a family member, friend, or neighbor’s — be thankful, but do not be complacent. Know your body, schedule mammograms, act when something does not feel right, and do not be afraid of the unknown. For people younger than 40, while you do not yet get mammograms, perform self-exams. The worst action is inaction.

We can defeat breast cancer, but we need your help to make this happen. Prisma Health Midlands Foundation has been fighting the fight for 29 years. With the help of sponsors, participants and volunteers, they have raised more than $10 million to fund the latest advancements in mammography and breast ultrasound technology for Prisma Health Breast Center locations in the Midlands and in the mobile mammography unit.

I am honored to chair the 2019 Walk for Life and Famously Hot Pink Half Marathon, 5K + 10K committee. My commitment to the cause is unwavering and part of my being. My hope is that each of you reading this will find a way to be part of the story. We need voices in the community, volunteers for events, sponsors, donors and participants.

Engage because it matters. Engage because cancer affects too many people. Engage because this is a fight we can win.

29th Walk for Life and Famously Hot Pink Half Marathon, 5K + 10K
Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019
Segra Park, Columbia
Register at WalkForLifeColumbia.org





News coming out of Fort Jackson at the end of 2018 centered not on graduate numbers or military budgeting, but on a bird measuring about 8 inches and weighing less than 2 ounces. The red-cockaded woodpecker has experienced drastically shrinking numbers since Europeans first set foot in the New World. Roughly 5,600 family groups exist currently, compared to millions a few hundred years ago, reports Doug Morrow, chief of the Directorate of Public Works’ Wildlife Branch.

The red-cockaded woodpecker’s dwindling population is primarily due to the fact that the longleaf pine ecosystem has been reduced by 97 percent, reports Nicole Hawkins, wildlife biologist at Fort Jackson. The reduction in habitat resulted in an equal reduction in the red-cockaded woodpecker across the Southeast.

The tweetable good news as 2018 ended was that “we’ve increased the population significantly,” shares Doug. Specifically, rising numbers of the officially “endangered” birds, protected as a result of the 1973 Endangered Species Act, are due to conservation efforts on Fort Jackson.

In recent years, the 52,000-acre U.S. Army Training Center has worked to restore the red-cockaded woodpecker’s primary habitat. In fact, since 1994 close to 7,000 acres of longleaf pine have been restored through conservation efforts. In addition, existing habitat across 40,000 acres has been managed to restore this ecosystem through thinning timber, prescribed burning, and planting of native warm season grasses.

Explains Nicole, underbrush is also kept low to improve the bird’s habitat. Plus, artificial cavities serve as nesting homes for red-cockaded woodpeckers.

These birds are unique among North American woodpeckers because they excavate their cavities in living pine trees. This process has been shown to take seven to 11 years for the woodpeckers to create them naturally.  “By providing artificial cavities, we speed this process and provide them with the roosting and nesting cavities that are required,” says Nicole.

She adds that there are 41 potential breeding groups with just one breeding female and male and helper offspring from previous years.  These helpers do not breed but instead assist in the nesting process through incubation, brooding, and feeding of the young.  Also, at least 150 eggs were laid and more than 80 are known to have hatched. Of those, 72 were branded for tracking purposes.

This year’s statistics represent record highs for the birds, shares Nicole.

And, the broadleaf pine ecosystem is essential for other species, adds Doug. He maintains: “We are the stewards and want to get the species off the endangered species list.”


These red-cockaded woodpecker nestlings were banded around 7-10 days after hatching.  Biologists at Fort Jackson climbed the tree, pulled them out, brought  them to the ground, banded them, and then returned them to the cavity.




traffic-2906245_960_720.jpgSTAY SAFE!

With the holidays and winter months just around the corner, many families will be packing up their little ones along with bundles of food and presents for journeys to visit relatives.

Don McRae, a former law enforcement officer and owner of a local driver education school, 911 Driving School, provided these tips for Columbia residents to keep in mind for winter:

  • Check your tire pressure: When the weather changes, causing dips in the temperature or unexpected snow, so does the pressure in your car’s tires. This can create potentially hazardous driving conditions when the roads already may be icy or slick. Keep a portable tire pressure gauge in your car and check your tires before every winter drive.
  • Pack a winter survival car kit: You never know when bad weather can hit and leave you stranded in your car. Some common items to keep in your car include non-perishable food items, kitty litter or sand for traction when stuck, emergency blankets, first-aid kits, flashlights, water bottles, phone chargers, and snow shovels.
  • Keep the gas tank half-full: Make sure that your gas tank is at least half-full at all times during the winter season. In the event your car gets stuck or stranded, keeping your gas tank as far from empty as possible will ensure you have a source of heat in emergency situations.
  • Tell someone your driving plans: In the event you have to venture out during a storm or hazardous driving conditions, be sure to let a relative, friend, or coworker know your destination and your expected arrival time.


Beaufort worth the trip to view “A Nativity Celebration”

By Deena C. Bouknight/Photography by Sissy Perryman

unnamed (4)For the last eight years, First Presbyterian Church of Beaufort – a two-hour drive from Columbia – has hosted A Nativity Celebration, featuring 100-plus unique and artistic natvity scenes hand-made in various spots around the world. Perusing the creches during the three-day event, from December 7-9, is like taking a visual global tour. Each is distinct and many convey aspects of a country’s culture.

The nativities are shared by local residents and church members as well as provided on loan from others outside the community. Each stands alone as an aesthetic vignette narrative of the birth of Christ. Styles range from whimiscal snow globes to eleborate porcelain sets. Some natvities make repeat appearances each year, while others are new. Some are so small they fit in a matchbox, while others sprawl across an entire table. Most are traditional table displays; a few hang.

They might be constructed of bent nails, recycled metals, or even local oyster shells.

There are German Hummel figurines as well as sets from Vietnam, Phillipines, Cameroon, and many other countries.

“It is amazing to see how the Christmas story is depicted by artists from all over the world,” says Donna Sheetz, FPC’s volunteer nativity coordinator. “Whether they are made from banana leaves or oyster shells, wood or fine porcelain – each nativity tells a story unique to the artist’s culture.”

Nativity photos by Sissy Perryman-Beaufort

The three-day event draws school children, assisted living and nursing home residents, tourists, locals, and more.

The goal, explains Donna, is to show the true meaning of Christmas through the eyes of the world. A Nativity Celebration is located in First Presbyterian Church of Beautfort, 1201 North Street, and is a “gift” to the public – free of charge.



By Deena C. Bouknight

Egyptian art in Columbia? Those who have lived or worked in the Mill District of Columbia, where cotton mills Olympia, Whaley, and Granby once thrived, are familiar with the large depiction of Ra, the Egyptian sun god, painted on the remains of an old railroad trestle. While some park-goers may have – at first glance – wondered how an Egyptian artifact found a home in Columbia, closer inspection revealed the fading remains of a 20th century painting.Sp9M6C2Q Until recently.

After construction workers demolished an old railroad trestle in the Olympia neighborhood in 1989, a large portion refused to crumble. South Carolina artist and muralist, Richard Lane, decided the weathered sandstone pillar appeared ancient, so he envisioned and then painted an Egyptian scene complete with various symbols and hieroglyphs in 1993. The piece became known locally as the Ra Obelisk.

In 2004, the structure actually became the centerpiece of what is considered a “pocket park” at 904 Heyward Street; benches were added as well as a sidewalk leading to the painting.

In late October, two artists – Jeff Donovan and Georgia Lake – matched colors and repainted the mural, strivingqgLJ-Uq8.jpeg to maintain the original work by Richard Lane. One Columbia Executive Director Lee Snelgrove believes the spruced up painting, which will be a key location on the forthcoming Mill District public art trail (developed by the 701 Center for Contemporary Art), revitalizes the area’s energy. “The Mill District has a history as a place for workers and artists,” she says, “and it continues to be a community of passionate people. Public art physically demonstrates a place of pride, and One Columbia is privileged to be a part of preserving the unique creative spirit of the Mill District.”




Lexington Medical Center Event Honors Breast Cancer Survivors and Families

By Deena C. Bouknight

On October 16th, 800 are expected to attend an evening out hosted by Lexington Medical Center. As a way of honoring women who have survived breast cancer, as well as families and friends who have supported them, “Women’s Night Out” will take place at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center in downtown Columbia.

Ariella Hughes is this year’s event’s keynote speaker. Ariella will share her journey of being diagnosed with breast cancer twice, and she will detail how the experience helped her to “live beyond better.”Ariella_Hughes049.JPG

The schedule for “Women’s Night Out” includes: at 5 p.m., a silent auction and physician exhibit; the program begins at 7 p.m. with a fashion show featuring breast cancer survivors, dinner, and the keynote address.

Proceeds from “Women’s Night Out” will benefit the Crystal Smith Breast Cancer Fund to support the “Campaign for Clarity,” a capital campaign designed to expand 3-D mammography throughout the Lexington Medical Center network of care. Annually, Lexington Medical Center diagnoses more than 300 breast cancer patients.

For more information about “Women’s Night Out,” call (803) 936-8850, or visit http://www.lexmed.com/wno. Individual tickets are $40, but there are also opportunities to sponsor a table.

Hop On! Hop Off!

IMG_14845-970x545.jpgThe Comet (a.k.a. Soda Cap Connector) is covenient way to peruse Columbia

By Deena C. Bouknight

Have you seen the buses around town painted retro blue with pink accents? This is Columbia’s novel transit system aimed at moving from tired to trendy with regard to public in-city transportation. Whether visiting the capital city for the first time, getting a feel for the area’s main roads and routes, commuting to work or school, or enjoying time at one of the many restaurants, shops, or sites, The Comet – also known as Soda Cap Connector – offers a comfortable and enjoyable ride.

The nickname, Soda Cap Connector, comes from the play on “cola town” as the shortened name for Columbia. And then there is the Soda City market, which has become a hub of activity every Saturday on Main Street. Included in The Comet’s logo design is a starBusSign that represents the stars on the South Carolina State House capitol building. Throughout town are large soda cap shaped signs, painted the same retro blue as The Comet buses, that tout the Soda Cap Connector logo; these signs indicate transit stops, and underneath is listed information about where the bus is scheduled to stop next.

Besides clean, comfortable, air-conditioned or heated (depending on weather), and graphically appealing, The Comet offers users real-time bus locators through its app, which can be downloaded on a smartphone or tablet. Users also have access to free WiFi, and there is space for bikes. Plus, catchthecomet.org has easy-to-understand information on how to read the schedule and find the best route.

The Comet stops at such points of interest as the South Carolina State Museum, the University of South Carolina, the Columbia Museum of Art, Five Points, area universities, and more. An entire route takes about 20 minutes, with stops every few minutes. Passengers can pick up colorful maps that include routes and times.

Prices are from $1.50 for a one-time regular fare to $3.00 to ride all day. A 31-day pass is $40.00. Half-priced passes are available to those who qualify; criteria includes disabilities, veterans, seniors over 65, and those on Medicare. (Anyone interested in a half pass must make an appointment at the Lowell C. Spires Jr. Regional Transit Authority at 3613 Lucius Road.) And, children 15 years old and younger ride The Comet for free.

To pay a fare, either have exact change when entering The Comet or purchases passes at the customer service desk of the North Main Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Other options include buying tickets at the Transit Center on the corner of Sumter and Laurel Street or on the Catch the COMET smartphone app.

Touted on The Comet website is this statement: “It’s out with the old and in with the new. And when we say new, we mean everything. Just see for yourself. The totally new COMET. It’s gonna be one heck of a ride.”



History on Display

cotton-2807360_960_720Camden features cotton mill era exhibit until August

By Deena C. Bouknight

At one time, cotton truly was king in  South Carolina. Thousands of acres of rural farmland were snowy white for about six weeks from late summer into early fall. And, while spinning yarn into cloth was an aspect of life for many from as early as the 17th century in South Carolina, it was the 1800s when cotton crops and textile mills thrived. Even post-Civil War, cotton continued as a major crop, and today, at least a half million bales are harvested annually.

To honor the importance of cotton as a South Carolina staple, The Camden Archives & Museum opened an exhibit on the textile industry on February 5, 2018. “Camden’s Cotton Mill Era: 1838-1960” focuses on how the lives of thousands of mill workers and their families were centered on the mills.  This exhibit explores the mills, the people who owned and who labored at them, and the impact they had on Camden.

The exhibit is free to the public and runs through August 11, 2018. For more information or to schedule a group, call 803-425-6050, or visit http://www.camdenschistory.com.

Hidden Gala at Columbia Museum of Art

“Seen & Unseen” and much more on April 21st!

By Deena C. Bouknight

“The Hidden Gala is a fantastic way to experience the museum,” share Julie Brenan and Steven Ford, co-chairs for the 2018 black-tie affair celebrating and supports arts. Whether a frequent visitor to the downtown museum or curious about what is offered, Julie and Steven explain in a joint statement that the Gala affords anyone “a night of excitement, glamour, and mystery. You get to have fun, dance, enjoy incredible food and drinks, experience amazing art, and hunt for sneak peaks into the CMA’s ongoing transformation.”

Believe it or not, the Columbia Museum of Art opened in Columbia in 1950 and moved into its current modern architecture building in 1998.  The museum currently has more than 20,000 square feet of gallery space, as well as a collection that numbers more than 7,000 objects. The building has work spaces, storage for collections, art studios, a 154-seat auditorium, a museum shop, and reception and event spaces.

The Gala is the CMA’s largest annual fundraiser; this year the focus is on its major spring exhibit, titled “Seen & Unseen: Photographs by Imogen Cunningham.” Curated by the CMA’s Chief Curator Will South, the exhibition spotlights the photographer’s deeply poetic work, taken in the early 1900s.

Guests to the Gala will be treated not only to exhibits, but also a menu of food prepared by Southern Way, a specialty cocktail, and a Lexus bubbly bar. Plus, there will be entertainment: jazz by Station Seven Band, dance music by Snow DJ Kevin Snow, and contemporary ballet by USC Dance Company.

Main sponsors of the event, held to raise critical funds necessary to continue the CMA’s ongoing efforts, are: Jim Hudson Lexus, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, and Joyce and George Hill.

“We can’t wait to open the doors April 21st and welcome everyone to the best party in town,” say Julie and Steven.

Doors open at 7 p.m. There is complimentary valet parking. For tickets and information, visit http://www.columbiamuseum.org/gala.