Personal Experience Yields Gratitude and Giving
McLeod Health Foundation donors like you invest in excellent healthcare close to home.
Often, an amazing local resource like the McLeod Center for Cancer Treatment and Research is not fully appreciated until you need it personally.READ MORE
When Sarah Duby, Associate Vice President at Assurant, moved to Florence four years ago, she had no clue she would come to rely on the McLeod Cancer Center.
When the COVID-19 Pandemic began, Sarah focused on improving her health and started running. As she began to lose weight, she noticed a lump in her breast.
Her first reaction was that it was nothing to worry about. However, when she met with her Family Nurse Practitioner Allison Slice, she was immediately sent to the McLeod Breast Health Center for a mammogram which led to a biopsy.
The biopsy revealed a diagnosis of Stage IIB breast cancer.
Like anyone who hears those words, Sarah was frightened.
She learned the true value of excellent healthcare in the days following her diagnosis. Sarah was seen at once by McLeod Surgeon Dr. Amy Murrell, who helped relieve her fears.
She was then referred to McLeod Oncologist Dr. Ravneet Bajwa, who offered guidance and encouragement. She would come to appreciate that both physicians were fully invested in her cancer journey from beginning to end.
“Your health is always going to be a factor in life at some point, but it’s not until you face a medical crisis that you realize the true value of good health care,” Sarah explained.
Sarah’s employer, Assurant, through its Assurant Foundation, is a long-time supporter of the McLeod Health Foundation and the McLeod Mobile Mammography Unit.
Since 2009, Assurant employees and the community have benefitted from easy access to this life-saving screening due to regular mobile unit visits to their office.
“It makes perfect sense for Assurant to support the McLeod Mobile Mammography Unit,” Sarah commented. “We believe in investing in the health of our employees and our community.”
Sarah feels her healthcare team is like her family. She is grateful that Assurant and other donors to the McLeod Foundation value the excellent health care she has benefitted from in her new hometown.Close
A Community Comes Together to Ensure Access to Lifesaving Service
October signifies a time of idyllic weather with the leaves changing, everyone cheering for their favorite football teams, and donors like you Thinking Pink.READ MORE
Each Fall, local businesses and community members come up with creative ways to raise funds in support of McLeod Health Mammography Services. This year, the most critical need was a new mobile mammography unit.
Rick Havekost, owner of Micky Finn’s in Florence, was made aware of one such local effort through West Florence High School Senior, Addie Bausmith. Addie was involved in “Pink Out,” a day of breast cancer awareness and fundraising started by Ruiz Foods in 2010. Addie’s focus was raising funding for the new mobile unit.
A few weeks later, Rick was approached by Joan Billheimer and Kaye Floyd-Parris, dedicated supporters of McLeod Health and the McLeod Health Foundation.
Both cancer survivors, Joan and Kaye were instrumental in raising funds for the original McLeod Mobile Mammography Unit.
Their passion to eliminate barriers to care for women in the region continued through their support of the new mobile unit.
Joan and Kaye explained to Rick how the current mobile unit began experiencing wear and tear due to its age. After more than a decade on the road, it became obvious that a new unit would be needed to continue saving lives in the region.
After hearing from others of this crucial need, Rick was moved to be a part of “Pink Out.” He decided that Florence’s two Micky Finn’s locations could support this project in a unique and impactful way.
Every Friday in October, Micky Finn’s donated all wine profits to support the initiative. Each of those five Fridays, Rick and his team proudly donned pink shirts, and posted reminders and calls to action to their loyal customers via social media.
At the end of the month, Rick and his team, with the support of the Florence community, had raised more than $10,000 toward the new mobile unit.
“Our Micky Finn’s team was inspired by the generous community of supporters who joined in this important effort to fund a new mobile mammography unit,” Rick said. “We were proud to be a part of the ‘Pink Out.’”Close
Giving Reaches Beyond Medical Care
For Dr. Rajesh Bajaj and his wife, Dr. Anu Chaudhry, providing hope to their patients goes well beyond medical treatment.
In 1995, these dedicated physicians began their life’s work at McLeod Health. Dr. Bajaj, a medical oncologist, and Dr. Chaudhry, an OB/GYN, soon found that by supporting the McLeod Health Foundation, their gifts could provide critical resources for their patients while they were receiving care.READ MORE
When the HOPE (Helping Oncology Patients Everyday) Fund was established in 2014, the two found a ideal match for their philanthropy. The HOPE Fund assists patients who face financial struggles that often accompany a cancer diagnosis.
Each day, Dr. Bajaj looks into the eyes of patients who carry weighty financial worries. He sees fear and concern over how they will afford their pain and nausea medications or pay this month’s rent. He eases their anxiety by telling them the HOPE Fund is there to help.
“I could see my own patients being impacted by the HOPE Fund right away,” he shared.
In 2017, recognizing the critical nature of services provided by donor gifts, the McLeod Foundation established the HOPE Fund Endowment.
The HOPE Fund Endowment ensures that if regular funding were ever interrupted, proceeds generated by the endowment could still provide for the most crucial services.
Upon learning of this new opportunity, Dr. Bajaj and Dr. Chaudhry committed to designate their own gifts to the HOPE Fund Endowment.
“I cannot do my job unless we care for the entire person,” Dr. Bajaj explained. “It goes beyond the cancer diagnosis to all the ways a patient’s life is impacted, such as issues obtaining medication, paying certain bills and even dealing with transportation problems. If the patient cannot get here for their care, we are unable to treat them.”
Dr. Bajaj and Dr. Chaudhry are confident that by supporting and championing the HOPE Fund Endowment, they are ensuring hope for cancer patients in their time of need — for many, many years to come.Close
Young Couple Faces Cancer Scare by Giving Back
For Morgan Pierce, a newly hired Pharmacist at McLeod, giving a portion of her salary to help others through the McLeod Health Foundation came naturally.
At the time she began giving, she had no idea what her young family would face.READ MORE
In 2019, Morgan and her husband, Josh, settled blissfully into family life with their new son, Ryan. Then, Josh began experiencing an unusual pain in his abdomen and back. The otherwise healthy 29-year-old teacher and football coach decided to consult his family physician Dr. Prakash Beeraka. Tests revealed frightening results.
Josh was diagnosed with a rare testicular cancer, which required immediate and aggressive treatment.
He was quickly referred to a team of physicians including Dr. Wayne Holley, Dr. Amy Murrell and Dr. Rajesh Bajaj.
As Josh experienced the side effects of chemotherapy, Morgan felt blessed that they had the ability to pay for his treatment as well as essential pain and nausea medications.
As a pharmacist working in the McLeod Cancer Center, Morgan knew this was not necessarily the case for all patients.
“I read the names of patients as their charts came across my desk each day, knowing that many had no insurance or the ability to pay for what they needed,” Morgan recalled. “It was such a great relief to know that the HOPE (Helping Oncology Patients Everyday) Fund was there to bridge that gap for them.”
In the midst of their journey, Morgan received a postcard in the mail from the McLeod Health Foundation about a new service available to donors: FreeWill.
FreeWill allows those who do not have a will to create one easily and for free. Morgan tucked the postcard away and vowed to come back to it later.
The following year, Morgan and Josh decided to create their will. Keeping with their desire to help others, they included the McLeod Foundation as a beneficiary.
“After walking through this cancer journey, we knew we needed a will, especially for our young son,” Morgan shared.
As Josh continues to recover, the young couple has returned to their focus on helping others. This year, they joined the McLeod Foundation’s young giving society, the Circle of Excellence, allowing them to give back to the hospital they love.Close
Local Business Owners Give Back
Acts of generosity and support often arise from intense personal experience.
Like many donors to the McLeod Health Foundation, this is true for Amy Martini and her husband Jeff. Amy’s journey with breast cancer had a tremendous impact on their family.READ MORE
Amy diligently received regular mammograms beginning when she was 30 years old due to her family’s history with cancer. Sadly, she lost her beloved mother to breast cancer after a long battle.
Seven years ago, during a routine annual exam, Amy received the news she had feared the most. At age 45, she would begin her own frightening journey with breast cancer.
Amy immediately began a very aggressive treatment, which she completed in November 2020.
“You have to be aware because it can happen at any age,” Amy said.
Amy’s mother had been diagnosed four times with breast cancer, but none were detected early enough to save her life. Amy and her family are grateful for the regular screenings that allowed Amy’s cancer to be detected before it spread.
“This is part of my personal journey,” Amy passionately shared. “How can I not give back?”
This past October, in honor of breast cancer awareness month, Jeff and Amy hosted the first “Dine Out for Breast Cancer.” This month-long event at the couple’s restaurants, Midtown Bistro and Bar 19 Twelve, raised funds to support breast cancer services at McLeod Health Loris Seacoast.
“In spite of COVID-19 restrictions, the event was very successful, raising $30,000 in 30 days,” Jeff explained.
Amy and Jeff both admire the small-town appeal of North Myrtle Beach with its “big city atmosphere where everybody sticks together.” This was evident in the amazing results of this special event.
Following the success of the inaugural “Dine Out for Breast Cancer,” Amy and Jeff have committed to host the event annually. They know they can help increase awareness of preventative care by raising funds to support cancer services at McLeod Health Loris Seacoast.
By supporting “Dine Out for Breast Cancer,” individuals from all over the Grand Strand will help raise funds for cancer patients and their families.Close
Golden Anniversary Provides Hope
David and Gerri Barr value having McLeod Regional Medical Center a mere five minutes from their home. They recognized they could rely on McLeod Health if they were ever in need of excellent, life-saving care. However, they did not realize just how much they would need it.READ MORE
The Barrs, both retired, spent their careers in the fields of higher education administration and speech pathology. In 2019, a series of health issues disrupted their best laid plans, and healthcare became their focus and priority.
David suddenly had to undergo two vascular procedures and was overwhelmed with the outstanding care he received at McLeod from Dr. Carmen Piccolo. While relieved to be on the other side of this health scare, he and Gerri found themselves returning to McLeod again a few months later.
After a visit to his primary care physician and initial testing, David was referred to McLeod Oncologist Dr. Jamie Smith who confirmed a diagnosis of colon cancer. David then underwent surgery, performed by Dr. John Sonfield. After David’s recovery, Dr. Smith informed him that he would need both chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Gerri felt grateful that David would be able to obtain state-of-the-art treatment five minutes from home.
“If we had to go out of town for his care, it would have been really hard. I cannot imagine having to travel hours back and forth for treatment every single day,” explains Gerri.
David’s completion of his cancer treatment coincided with another joyful family celebration. Kristen Barr, David and Gerri’s daughter, had planned a special 50th wedding anniversary celebration in honor of her parents.
“The doctors who worked with me during that year — Dr. Piccolo, Dr. Smith and Dr. Sonfield — truly inspired us to begin giving to the McLeod Health Foundation,” shares David.
As they discussed the upcoming event, the Barrs felt moved to direct their guests to donate to the Foundation supporting the McLeod Cancer Center in lieu of gifts.
“We were so delighted to have raised these important funds. We are confident that the Foundation will use these gifts to help those who are unable to afford all of the expenses that come with a cancer diagnosis,” said David and Gerri. “It is one small way we can give back to help others.”Close
How Your Support Lifts Up Patients in Their Darkest Moments
Shirley Hopkins found hope through the generosity of HOPE (Helping Oncology Patients Everyday) Fund donors like you.READ MORE
What started as a typical drive into work at Dollar General quickly became a terrifying journey.
Shirley didn’t feel right. A local provider told her she may have the flu and to go home and rest. Wisely, she decided to confirm the diagnosis at the McLeod Health Cheraw Emergency Department.
Shirley was stunned to learn that there was a large mass over her left lung. She was immediately transferred to McLeod Regional Medical Center (MRMC) in Florence under the care of Medical Oncologist Dr. Karim Tazi.
Dr. Tazi diagnosed Shirley with Stage I Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She would soon embark on six weeks of rigorous chemotherapy treatment.
“I never get sick,” Shirley shared. “When I heard the word ‘cancer,’ I cried and cried. Then I was just okay with it.”
A few weeks into her treatment, Shirley was found unconscious on the floor of her home. When she awoke, she was in the Intensive Care Unit at MRMC, dangerously ill. Her body had not responded well to the chemotherapy treatments, leaving her immune system compromised and weakened.
As she regained her strength, she learned she would need physical therapy to learn how to walk again. For Shirley, walking across a room without assistance proved to be a hazardous task. She desperately needed a rollator — a special walker with a seat. Without insurance, however, this piece of equipment would be impossible for Shirley to purchase on her own.
None of these events were a part of Shirley’s plan for her life. However, because of McLeod Health’s dedication to patients regardless of their ability to pay, Shirley did not have to worry about how she would afford these life-saving treatments and medications. She could focus entirely on regaining her health and strength.
In addition, through the HOPE Fund Shirley was able to obtain the rollator she needed.
Thanks to dedicated HOPE Fund donors like you, Shirley and many others have access to medication, nutrition and immediate assistance during their most challenging time.Close
The HOPE Fund (Helping Oncology Patients Everyday) is established for cancer patient support services and to provide oncology staff with improved access for the immediate assistance needs of their patients.LEARN MORE
View stories about how your Foundation gifts to the McLeod Center for Cancer Treatment and Research Center are helping patients and their families.VIEW STORIES