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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.

Brenda and Patti

Brenda and Patti

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

“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.

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.

Kelly Jeffcoat

Kelly Jeffcoat

“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.

Kate Larsen

Kate Larsen

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 LexMed.com 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 LexMed.com.

The Flu Vaccine: Who Will You Do It For?

This time of year, it’s important to receive a flu vaccine. By becoming vaccinated, you protect yourself from getting sick and passing influenza to patients, co-workers, family members and others.

LMC is launching a flu vaccine campaign. Personalize a sign with the name of the person or persons for whom you get the flu vaccine. Then, ask someone to take a photo of you and your sign with a cell phone and post these pictures to Facebook or Instagram, or text the photo to your loved ones. Use hashtags #NotJustForYou! and #FluVaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone 6 months of age and older should be vaccinated annually as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. Vaccination is especially important for health care workers and those who live with or care for people at high risk of flu complications, such as children younger than 2 years, adults older than 65 years and pregnant women.

Sometimes, people can be skeptical of the flu vaccine. In this news video from WIS-TV, LMC doctor Jeremy Crisp of Lexington Family Practice Northeast talks about that.

Meanwhile, take everyday preventive steps to reduce the spread of germs:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
• Get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink fluids and eat healthy foods.
• Cough into your sleeve instead of your hands if you do not have a tissue.
• If you have flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without taking fever-reducing medicine.
• While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible.

Are You Getting Enough?

Are You Getting Enough?
By: Morgan Robbins RD, LD at LMC

September is fruit and vegetable month and what better time to re-evaluate your diet to ensure you’re getting enough fruits and vegetables. Ninety percent of adults and children do not meet their daily recommended fruit and vegetable intake.

Vegetables

Adults need 1-3 cups of fruits per day and 1½ -4 cups of vegetables per day. Everyone has different requirements, to find out what you need daily, visit the Fruit and Vegetable Calculator. When in doubt, fill up half of your plate with a combination of fruits and veggies!

fruit_4
Five Reasons to Add More Fruits and Vegetables to Your Diet:
5. Quick and easy snacks- Fruits and veggies serve as easy, portable and healthy snacks for all to enjoy.
4. Reduce risk for disease- Adequate intake can lower risk for chronic disease and other health aliments.
3. Fiber- Fruits and veggies are full of fiber which helps you feel full and keeps your digestive system in check.
2. Variety- Fruits and vegetables come in an endless amount of shapes, textures, flavors and colors, leaving you with plenty of options.
1. Vitamins and Minerals- Fruits and veggies are loaded with vitamins and minerals to keep your body energized and healthy.