When Starr Spearman marched across Charleston’s Ravenel Bridge last month in the Cooper River Bridge Run, it made no matter she was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.
The debilitating treatment didn’t stop her from going deep sea fishing last week either.
“The big C isn’t a scarlet letter,” the 54-year-old Spearman said. “It will always be hanging over my head, but I’m getting on with my life.”
On Sunday, June 1, the Lady’s Island resident will join dozens of others who have battled cancer at the Fifth Annual Beaufort Memorial Hospital Cancer Survivors’ Day Celebration.
“Today, a diagnosis of cancer is not a death sentence” said Connie Duke, cancer program director for Beaufort Memorial Hospital. “More than 60 percent of patients are cured of cancer, and the statistics are getting better every year.”
Spearman and colon cancer survivor John “Gwyn” Jordan will both speak at the celebration, being held from 2 to 4 p.m. at Beaufort Memorial Keyserling Cancer Center, 1680 Ribaut Road, in Port Royal. The event is free and open to all cancer survivors and their guests, but registration is requested by May 30. Call 843-522-5585 for more information or to register.
The event, titled “Hope Soars,” will include live music, refreshments, door prizes and a brief presentation by BMH physicians and nurses, as well as Spearman and Jordan, who will share their inspiring stories.
“I’m not a crusader,” said Spearman. “I’m the type that ties it up in a box, puts it away and moves on.”
It has been 16 months since a routine mammogram at Beaufort Memorial Hospital’s Women’s Imaging Center revealed a suspicious lesion in Spearman’s right breast. A biopsy confirmed it was malignant. She went on to have a bilateral mastectomy, five weeks of radiation treatments and months of chemotherapy.
“I was in shock when they told me I had breast cancer,” Spearman recalled. “I wasn’t on any medication, I was healthy and I took care of myself. I paddle board and do all kinds of water activities.”
A critical care nurse and educator at Beaufort Memorial Hospital for 25 years, Spearman immediately began researching the disease and the latest modalities being used to treat it.
“As a medical professional, I started to look at all the options and reading everything I could about breast cancer,” she said. “After awhile, I had to quit because it was driving me crazy.”
She also had to rein in her usual take-charge approach to problems and let others take the wheel. But the mother of two daughters, ages 22 and 24, was determined to stand strong throughout the ordeal.
“I had my couch potato moments, but I was up every day,” Spearman said. “I put on my make-up and tried to be as stylish as I could even when my hair fell out. It was important to me to show my daughters that women can be strong and endure things like this.”
Her family, friends and faith helped her get through the trying times.
“Cancer changes you,” Spearman said. “You’re a different person. But you adjust to it. You find strength in the little things in life.”