September 11 – A Day We Will Never Forget – My Personal Journey – Editorial

Read More

By Mark A. Leon

It was sometime after seven when my phone rang. I was groggy and half awake but somehow felt the need to answer my phone. Kim was the on the other end frantically telling me to turn my television on. Without hesitation or knowledge of why, I did. She then began to tell me the cryptic pieces of information surrounding a plane going into the World Trade Center. It was moments later when I witnessed the second plane make a permanent impression in my mind. I soon hung up and continued to stare at the screen as my eyes got lost far beyond the scenes I was seeing on the television screen.

I sat silently and still on the floor, watching, absorbing, and reflecting as the news trying to make sense of this madness. Memories of my days on Wall Street came back quickly and I could remember my footsteps from the PATH train to Broad Street. Now that path is covered in rubble and smoke and the familiar sounds of taxis are now filled with screams.

After several hours, without knowing what to do or who to call, I played nine holes of golf. Upon completion, as I walked the final path to the clubhouse, my phone rang. I don’t know why, but had a feeling the news was not good. I had no reason to believe that the call from my parents home phone was good or bad news, but I knew. Maybe it was the day playing in the back of my mind or perhaps the knowledge that my parents rarely ever called me during the day. With a brief hesitation, I answered to hear my father on the other end confirming my notion. I received the news that my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Mid afternoon on September 11 as the world reacted, lived and digested what would become the most memorable day of our lives, I stood alone hearing the word you never want to hear in relation to a family member, friend or yourself.

Much of the next several hours were a bit of a blur. Sometime in between the hours of 8:00 PM and 10:00 PM I leaned on a rock just outside my apartment and looked up at the sky. My first thought was of the deafening silence filling the sky with only the view of stars shining. No planes, no helicopters, no sound resonating. Of course this being in the middle of a remote part of Oklahoma would not have shocked anyone but living seven miles from an international airport meant something else. How can complete silence send shivers down one’s spine? I don’t know, but the empty sound was the spark that drove me into a period of weakness and sorrow. I shed a tear as an entire day of devastation ran circles in my mind. Over and over I remember the calls, the videos, the commentary and through all that, it was the silence that sent me over the edge.

That was September 11, 2001.

One year and six days later, we lost her.

Fifteen years have passed and more mature. The world as you and I know it changed that day, not in a temporary, but permanent way. It awakened us to the notion that we are all vulnerable. How often to we go to a movie and watch a blockbuster about an apocalyptic event and sit in awe at the wonder of Hollywood magic? Yet, to witness the unimaginable happen before our eyes wondering and praying that our friends and loved ones were not part of this madness is something not many of us would pay the price of admission for. I grew up in New Jersey, raised by two home bread New York parents. Spent some time on Wall Street living the American dream. Never in the midst of the madness known as New York City could I imagine an event so catastrophic ever happening in my backyard.

If asked what emotions went through my system that day, I would have to say shock, fear, heartbreak, concern, confusion and hope. I am sure you are thinking why “hope” in that list of negative emotions. Well, without hope, we have nothing. Everyday we live with the risk of tragedy whether it affects one person or thousands, yet each day we wake up to a new sunrise with the hope of a day filled with happiness and love.

September 11 was tragic for me in so many ways, mostly personal. I needed to feel hope that as a family we would be by my mother’s side supporting her, comforting her and knowing together we could beat this disease. As we come closer to the 10th anniversary of the day that changed our lives forever, I will be thinking about my mother and the struggles she had to endure so that we could have the blessing of having her in our lives.

My greatest tragedy of that day was not the events over lower Manhattan. It was that I was not there to hug and hold my mother when she received the news of the unwelcome visitor in her body. I’m sorry Mom.

“With these hands, I pray for the strength Lord; with these hands, I pray for the faith Lord.” – Springsteen

Summerville Based Chase After a Cure Releases ‘Chase Away Childhood Cancer’ Specialty License Plates in Time for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Read More

‘Chase Away Childhood Cancer’ Specialty License Plate Launches in Time for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

SUMMERVILLE, S.C. – Beginning today, there’s a new way for South Carolina residents to show their support for childhood cancer research efforts. A pediatric cancer specialty license plate is now available from the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles. Proceeds from the purchase of the plates will benefit Summerville-based Chase After a Cure, which has raised more than half a million dollars for pediatric cancer research at the Medical University of South Carolina Children’s Hospital.

The “Chase Away Childhood Cancer” plate is available for motor vehicles. The cost is $50 every two years in addition to the regular motor vehicle registration fee. Order plates online at, by mail or at the local DMV office.

The release of the license plate at the beginning of September coincides with Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, a nationwide effort to bring attention to the critical need for more pediatric cancer research funding. In the United States, 15,780 children under the age of 21 are diagnosed with cancer every year; about one quarter of them will not survive the disease.

The push for a state license plate started with Summerville area mother, Julie Reynolds. She approached Chase After a Cure with the idea, hoping to honor her 17-year-old daughter Rachel, who died in 2014 from a rare form of cancer.

Chase After a Cure was quick to lend its support. The “Chase Away Childhood Cancer” plate was approved by the S.C. Legislature in 2017. Childhood cancer advocates around the country are working to get a childhood cancer license plate in all 50 states.

“This is a daily reminder to people of the need for more childhood cancer awareness and research funding,” said Margaret Marcoe, marketing director for Chase After a Cure. “We hope when people are sitting in traffic and see this license plate in front of them, they will pause to consider all the children fighting cancer and the need for more research into better treatments and an eventual cure.”

Also as part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Chase After a Cure is partnering with Nothing Bundt Cake in Mount Pleasant. This is the third year that owners Eric and Julie Sakae have committed to raising awareness of childhood cancer. During the month of September, Nothing Bundt Cake will donate 10 percent of its sales for customers who mention “Chase After a Cure.”

“As a pediatric registered nurse, I have witnessed the devastation neuroblastoma wreaks on a family,” Julie Sakae said. “Chase After a Cure is so amazing. What (founder) Whitney Ringler has done over the years with MUSC gives hope and strength to many families.”

Chase After a Cure funds innovative research and promising clinical trials that have the potential to immediately impact the lives of pediatric cancer patients. Cancer is the No. 1 cause of death by disease among children. In fact, the incidence of childhood cancer has been rising about 0.6 percent each year since the mid-1970s, resulting in an overall increase of 24 percent over the last 40 years.

Despite the growing number of children diagnosed with a form of pediatric cancer only three drugs have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

About Chase After a Cure
Chase After a Cure was started in 2009 by Summerville, S.C., resident Whitney Ringler and her family after her son, Chase, was given a 30 percent chance of survival after being diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma. Chase survived this aggressive form of cancer. Chase After a Cure is dedicated to funding research and raising awareness for alternative and more effective treatments for children with cancer with a specific focus on hard-to-treat cancers such as neuroblastoma. For more information, visit


Holly A. Fisher, MMC
Inbound Marketing Certified
Writing | Social Media | Public Relations


Camp Happy Days Supports Local Children Battling Pediatric Cancer

Camp Happy Days Supports Local Children Battling Pediatric Cancer

Camp Happy Days assists the Brown family throughout the year.
Charleston, SC – Everyday 43 children are diagnosed with cancer. Camp Happy Days?(CHD), a local Charleston nonprofit has devoted its purpose to providing services to children battling cancer?and their families throughout the state of South Carolina with cost free year-round programs and activities.

Cherelle Brown and her family have been actively involved with Camp Happy Days since learning of the organization three years ago.??Brown noted that Camp Happy Days has given her family the understanding to know they are not alone. According to Brown, Camp Happy Days has not only helped Adrianna (age 9) come out of her shell but her and her husband find it easier to communicate with others about what Adrianna and their family are going through?—?stating that CHD has been a tremendous resource for parents to connect with one another and have a weight lifted off their shoulders.

“It’s just safe. You worry when your kids are at school, anytime that they aren’t with you. For the first time, and every year since, when Adrianna is?at camp,?I can be calm, I don’t worry, I don’t call. When they are at Camp Happy Days, I know they are safe- it’s truly the only time I am not worried about my children when they are away. Camp Happy Days has been a lifeline for my family and is one of the best things to happen to us during this difficult time.” (Brown).

Each year, Adrianna brings her little sister Bentyana 7, to camp with her. Camp Happy Days promotes siblings to attend camp together, as a time to bond and learn that they are not alone. Brown says her daughters’ bonds are unbreakable and that Bentyana is so protective of her big sister, offering help wherever they go.

Camp Happy Days raises all of the funds each year to support families like the Browns. One of Camp Happy Days largest fundraising event for children battling cancer is coming up in November. The Camp Happy Days Heroes of Hope Gala?on Friday, November 4th at the Memminger Auditorium is a fundraiser and celebration of the 27th Anniversary of the Cabooty Party which was started by Allan Cabading, a childhood cancer survivor, longtime volunteer and supporter! The event directly benefits children battling cancer and their families. The evening is the biggest fundraiser of the year for CHD, and includes a dinner, open bar, live band, and a silent and live auction. The event begins at 7pm, VIP Early Check-in and Auction Previews are available at 6:30. Tickets will be $100 per person until October 21st. Please go to? additional details.

Chase After a Cure Donates $100,000 to MUSC For Childhood Cancer

Pictured, from left, are Debbie Rupert, Chase After a Cure board member; Adam White, Chase After a Cure executive director; Whitney Ringler, Chase After a Cure founder; Dr. David Cole, MUSC president; Kathy Cole, Chase After a Cure board member; Matthew Pecoy, Chase After a Cure board member, pediatric oncologist Dr. Jacqueline Kraveka; Chris Hoyle, Chase After a Cure medical research advisory committee; Margaret Marcoe, Chase After a Cure director of marketing; and Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg.
Pictured, from left, are Debbie Rupert, Chase After a Cure board member; Adam White, Chase After a Cure executive director; Whitney Ringler, Chase After a Cure founder; Dr. David Cole, MUSC president; Kathy Cole, Chase After a Cure board member; Matthew Pecoy, Chase After a Cure board member, pediatric oncologist Dr. Jacqueline Kraveka; Chris Hoyle, Chase After a Cure medical research advisory committee; Margaret Marcoe, Chase After a Cure director of marketing; and Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg.

Media Release:? Chase After a Cure presented a check for $100,000 to pediatric
oncologist Dr. Jacqueline Kraveka and her team at the Medical University
of South Carolina Children’s Hospital on Sept. 26. Each year during
Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September, Chase After a Cure
presents MUSC with a check for money raised over the course of the last
year to support pediatric cancer research. Charleston Mayor John
Tecklenburg also attended, proclaiming September as Childhood Cancer
Awareness Month in the City of Charleston.

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is a nationwide effort to bring
attention to more than 15,000 children and teenagers diagnosed with
cancer each year. Cancer is the No. 1 cause of disease-related death
among children. Locally, about 70 children are diagnosed with cancer
each year at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Since its founding in 2009, Chase After a Cure has donated more than
half a million dollars to MUSC for research and equipment, specifically
in the area of the very aggressive neuroblastoma.

Chase After a Cure was started in 2009 by Summerville resident Whitney
Ringler and her family after her son, Chase, was given a 30 percent
chance of survival after being diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma, a
cancer of the nerve tissue of the sympathetic nervous system. Chase
survived this aggressive form of cancer and now his family works
tirelessly on behalf of childhood cancer research.

Chase After a Cure – Official Website

Cancer Patients are finding the Love and Support they need – Hope Lodge Charleston

20140730_172409When Glen Orwell was told he had 6 weeks to live, his world fell apart. His one final goal became fighting the cancer that was quickly spreading through his body. Diagnosed with extensive stage small cell lung cancer, Glen knew there was no cure. He just wanted more time. Fighting the type of battle he wanted took resources he didn’t have. Uninsured and 3 hours away from the nearest cancer center, he found it difficult to pay the bills and travel back and forth between home and the hospital where he was having daily radiation treatments. One of his providers suggested he ask the Hope Lodge for help.

The Hope Lodge Charleston is one of 31 Lodges in the United States that offers temporary housing to cancer patients who are undergoing therapy away from home. In 1970, it was founded by Margot Freudenberg, a leader in the Charleston medical community and Ambassador with the Eisenhower People to People Program. It was the first Hope Lodge to be established and it set a precedent for other lodges that were later founded across the United States. It provides a second home to those who live 40 miles or more away from their treatment location. The Hope Lodge is a nonprofit organization sponsored by the American Cancer ?Society. The donations of individuals keep the lodges operational.

The Hope Lodge Charleston is a campus of four houses on Calhoun Street offering private rooms outfitted with twin beds, linens, cable TV and private restrooms. There is a community kitchen and most every night, volunteers from the community cook and provide meals to the tenants. They also host activities such as bingo nights and book clubs. Tenants can find respite on the porches or enjoy the healing garden as well.

image (3)The Hope Lodge requires that a caregiver also stay with the patient. Glen was joined by his daughter Tina, and they stayed for two weeks during his most intense round of therapy. “When we didn’t have enough money to buy peanut butter sandwiches, having a warm meal every night was wonderful” Tina explained.

The facility also has a library with donated books and computers with resources about various cancers and treatment options. Tina spent much of her down time in the library. ?“We found it really empowering to have the resources of the Hope Lodge. We were able to read about his cancer and understand the disease course and prognosis.”

With the help of the Hope Lodge, Glen was able to undergo intensive radiation and chemotherapy that would have otherwise been unavailable to him. He lived for 7 month after his diagnosis, far beyond his estimated 6 weeks. “I truly believe that he had this time and a better quality of life because of the Hope Lodge. Just to know that others care and are willing to help those in need made every day better” said Tina.

The Hope Lodge Charleston is located at 267-273 Calhoun Street and serves the community 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. For more information about donating or volunteer opportunities, please contact Kelly Williams?at? visit their website.

Cancer can be beautiful – A Charleston Story

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon

This piece was written in 2012, just weeks after a diagnosis of stage 4 brain and spinal cancer:

There are a few truly dramatic moments in our lives. Those moments when every facet of your soul is ripped out of your body, stomped on and then left to die. It is those moments when your body and mind going into free fall and you lose all rational control. On Monday, I was overtaken by the news that a close friend had been diagnosed with cancerous tumors in her brain and spine that had progressed to stage four.

After experiencing some dizziness and double vision, she was taken to the emergency room and since then the last ten days have been an emotionally and physically draining period for Michelle, her family and friends.

This is something none of us ever wish to go through in our lives, but all to often we do. Personally, I have felt an emptiness in my stomach all week long, yet I cannot even come close to imagining the thoughts and feelings running through Michelle’s head. Even with every ounce of my being there for her, I don’t feel like it is enough.

Life is about trials and it is the ability to overcome that makes us stronger, but in times like this you even question that belief.

Thursday evening, I was asked to do a very important symbolic gesture knowing very well, this was the final act to realization of what the next six months to a year will be like during this fight. I was asked to shave Michelle’s hair off. I won’t lie, I hesitated. I hesitated and stalled for quite some time and she even gave me an out. I knew I had to do it. Not because she asked and I can’t say no, but because she was putting all her faith in me.

Bachelorette party at Torch

In the end, with all her long red hair on the ground, she was beautiful. It worked. She smiled and seeing her whole face, you could see the hope in her eyes. Was it sad? Yes. Was it hopeful? Yes. Was it a roller coaster of unadulterated emotion? Oh yes!

What is so remarkable about Michelle is that she still continues to think about everyone else around her. Each night this week she has sent me home to sleep seeing the sleepiness in my eyes and my constant yawning. She is also the mother to three beautiful dogs, all of which were rescue dogs. Her heart may actually be too large for her body. The thought of being cuddled on the couch with her dogs has gotten her through this week.

As we speak, doctors are meeting with her to discuss every possible option. Early indication is five days of radiation and chemo treatments for possibly six months to a year. It is going to be a difficult road filled with pain, sickness, crying and a whole lot of love.

I will be there for her as well as every life she has touched in the past.

It is rare in life that you meet someone that defines unconditional goodness. A person that makes you believe in a better tomorrow. Michelle is one of those people. She is pure and unconditional. Her selfless behavior and charitable personality is infectious. If anyone can beat this, she is my vote for the best option.


Michelle made Charleston her home after a long emotional journey to find her place.? From Ohio to Charleston, she made many stops, but in the end, it was Charleston that truly made her feel special.? She was a fighter working for the Berkeley County Court System, fighting injustice until this disease took control of her body.

Her battled ended less than six months after diagnosis.? I was privileged to spend most of her final days with her until she was rushed home to pass away four days later just miles from her birthplace surrounded by family and friends.? She often said she would return as a dragonfly and on the day of her funeral at her brother’s home, we sat on the patio and wouldn’t you know it, a dragonfly flew by.? We knew.