Every year, Lillie Varner, Carolyn Campbell and Rose Knighton come together in October - National Breast Cancer Awareness Month - to celebrate life and offer hope to women with breast cancer.
The three women are survivors of breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death among women, behind lung cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, there will be 316,120 new cases of breast cancer among women this year.
But Varner, Campbell and Knighton are on a mission to make sure women detect breast cancer early and get treatment, which might increase their chances of surviving this disease.
Their journeys with breast cancer led to the organization of "Pink Out Weekend," a free community luncheon and a worship service at their church, Central Oak Grove Baptist Church on Hilton Head Island. The annual event began in October 2006.
This year's luncheon takes place at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 28 at the Spanish Wells Clubhouse. Dr. Rochelle Ringer, a breast surgeon at Hilton Head Hospital, will be the speaker. On Oct. 29, the church will host its Pink Out Worship Service, in which a guest minister will deliver a message based on the theme, "Keep Hope. Have Courage. Together We Can Make A Difference."
"Awareness of breast cancer is so important. We try to encourage women to get their annual mammograms. We are here to support women, whether they are having a mammogram for the first time or whether they need us to go to a breast cancer treatment appointment with them," said Knighton, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 when she was 42 years old.
It was because of Rose that the celebration was organized, said Campbell, who along with Varner and fellow church member Nell Hay, came up with the idea. "We wanted to support Rose as she was going through her treatments," said Campbell, who was diagnosed in 1998. The event has created a platform for people to openly discuss breast cancer and find ways to support each other, Knighton said.
Varner, who was diagnosed in 1994, said the support of family and friends helped her get through surgery and treatment. She now helps other women with breast cancer through their ordeal.
For more information about Pink Out Weekend, call Central Oak Grove Baptist Church at 843-681-5784.
Carolyn Grant is a freelance writer on Hilton Head Island.