Pink strides: Hospital to host event for breast cancer awareness

Published 7:00 am Saturday, October 10, 2015

MAKING STRIDES: Each year, the Pearl River County Hospital and Nursing Home decorates their front llawn with pink ribbons in support of breast cancer awareness month. Photo by Cassandra Favre

MAKING STRIDES: Each year, the Pearl River County Hospital and Nursing Home decorates their front llawn with pink ribbons in support of breast cancer awareness month.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

On Oct. 31, children and adults will be putting the finishing touches on their Halloween costumes. However, officials with the Pearl River County Hospital and Nursing Home in Poplarville will be gearing up for their third annual “Making Strides to End Breast Cancer Walk and Health Fair.”
Each year, Steve Colson, director of staff development and community outreach, and Jo Lynn Davis, a nurse, coordinate the event to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer.
Registration for the fun walk and run begins at 7 a.m. and the event begins at 8 a.m. Retail and food vendors will line the front lawn and walking track of the hospital and health officials will be performing free vision, hearing and blood pressure screenings, Davis said. There will also be a costume contest, trick-or-treating, games for children, pony rides and face painting. The air ambulance will also be on display.
“We want this to be a fun day for the whole family,” Davis said. We are happy and proud to host this event to support our community. We’re constantly looking for ways to give back to the community and educate the public on this and other health issues. One-hundred percent of the proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society.”
However, the real cause for celebration is surviving breast cancer and two women with strong ties to Poplarville celebrate that milestone every day.

The Educator

Poplarville Lower Elementary Principal Diane Herndon is originally from Pearlington, Mississippi, but from the moment she met her sweetheart Winston at Pearl River Community College, she’s called Poplarville home. They have two children, Nicole, Daniel and three grandchildren, Rhett, Maddox, Gray and another on the way.
Herndon began having mammograms at 40, because there was no family history of the disease. In Oct. 2013 she was scheduled for her yearly test, but due to scheduling conflicts with her doctor, she was unable to go in for her test until March 5, 2014.
Later that week, Herndon discovered a note stuck to her computer screen with instructions to call her doctor immediately.
“She wanted me to see a surgeon the next Monday,” Herndon said. “I’ve never had any lumps or irregularities.”
A biopsy confirmed that Herndon had stage one HER2-postive breast cancer, which is an aggressive type of cancer.
From March 5, 2014 to April 1, the day of her double mastectomy, the cancer had progressed to almost stage two, Herndon said.
That summer, for every three weeks, Herndon underwent five hours of chemotherapy and herceptin treatments and she was told her immune system was too comprised to return to work at the beginning of the school year.
In June 2015, doctors told Herndon everything looked great and she was cancer free. She is on three months treatment for the next three years.
While on hiatus from school, Herndon worked from home while assistant principal Loletha Needham ran the school, she said.
Herndon said she has a wonderful support system, which includes her school family, church family and immediate family. Her belief in God also brought her through tough times. From the third week of April to the end of May, Herndon’s faculty prepared every meal of the day for her, she said.
“I knew there wasn’t anything that God couldn’t handle,” Herndon said. “I told my kids to trust it in God’s will and we would make it through, no matter the end result. It doesn’t matter what happens, we can love and pray together and we will get through. It’s been quite the journey. I’m so thankful for early detection and encourage other women to know their bodies and have regular checkups.”

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Life is good

Jodi Smith, who has a family history of breast cancer, began having mammograms in her late 20s and she’s never had a normal one.
In 1992, a mass was removed from her breast and she suffered from fibrocystic breast disease, she said.
However, in recent years, she was sporadic in getting her mammograms.
Before her mammogram on Feb. 24, 2014, it had been two years since Smith underwent the test, Smith said.
She was diagnosed with cancer in her right breast and elected to have a double mastectomy. Upon further inspection of her left breast, doctors discovered an aggressive form of cancer, which had gone unnoticed because they had not biopsied the left.
On March 17, 2014, Smith underwent a double mastectomy and started chemotherapy on May 4.
She received eight treatments and, for the next five years, she will take a hormonal chemotherapy pill, she said.
“The cancer was hormone-fed and the pill is targeted to kill the hormones in my body,” Smith said. “It gives you aches and pains and it feels like I have the flu every night.”
Smith, who has been told by doctors she is cancer free, said she never contemplated anything other than getting one task done and moving to the next.
On June 19, she began the reconstruction process. When doctors removed her breasts, they took a lot of tissue and skin, she said. She has expanders to stretch the skin and make a place for reconstruction.
Smith said every day is a good day, even if she’s sick. She also credits her husband Johnny and their two children Raysha, Wyatt and granddaughter Brenleigh for her successful recovery.
“I smile, pray and just keep a positive attitude,” she said. “They may tell me tomorrow it’s back and everywhere. I hate to know how good a time I had was decided by the ‘I don’t knows.’ Everyone should maintain their care and use good judgment. Life is good.”
For more information about the event and renting vendor space, contact Colson at 601-240-2044 or Davis at 601-240-2046.