A diagnosis of cancer changes life forever, not only for the person suffering from the disease but for family members and friends, as well. The disease stirs up fear, adds a great deal of stress to daily life and often puts a huge financial strain on families.
When Carrie Freeman was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer in July 2007, she had to quit her job to undergo treatment. She had a newborn baby, three other children and piles of medical bills. The loss of income had an immediate impact on her family, which had been a two-income family for eight years.
Freeman and her husband, Allen, a certified financial planner with Hand & Tanner Financial Group in Beaufort, already had some good ideas on how to better their family's financial situation in the midst of the medical crisis. But the two did a lot of online research to find more ways to survive the financially devastating time.
"We had to figure out something," Carrie said. "I was traveling for treatment. It was expensive to travel. We needed help."
The couple decided to share their knowledge with others going through similar ordeals. They published "Cancer and Finances" in 2008. The 89-page resource book available online offers tips on financial assistance, health insurance, land and air transportation to doctors and much more.
"I think knowledge is power," Carrie said. "The more you know about something, the better choices you can make."
While working on the book, the Lady's Island couple also decided to share some of the health information they had learned along their journey. As a result, they launched an online educational resource called The Wellness School on Oct. 1. The purpose of the site is to connect individuals with practitioners to help them achieve wellness from a holistic standpoint. The site is not directed at people with cancer; it's designed for anyone who is interested in holistic wellness. Several practitioners and local wellness businesses have joined the site to offer online courses and other helpful resources.
Carrie said the idea behind the website is not to encourage people to avoid medical intervention but to combine holistic and medical treatments. She says she has benefited from both. A little more than three years after her initial diagnosis, Carrie said there is no evidence of cancer in her body.
In addition to the book and website, Carrie created a children's audio book about breast cancer. When she couldn't find the right book about breast cancer to read to her then 5-year-old daughter Abigail, she took matters into her own hands. While undergoing three months of treatment in 2008 in Philadelphia, Carrie wrote "My Sweetest Thing," a touching and somewhat humorous book about how one little girl dealt with her mother's cancer diagnosis.
Carrie isn't the only local woman who saw the need for a children's book about breast cancer. When Beaufort resident Gina Wright's longtime friend Karen Harris was diagnosed with the disease in May 2009, Wright's thoughts immediately went to Harris' two young children.
"What are they to expect?" Wright asked. "How are they going to know what Mommy is getting ready to go through?"
That's the premise of her book, "My Mommy Has Breast Cancer." She wanted to give her friend's children a tool to help them through the situation. Harris said her children loved the book.
"They thought it was great," she said. "It just made it easier to talk about, especially with my young child. She was 6."
Wright's book features childlike, whimsical chalk illustrations by part-time Fripp Island resident Janine Yordy. She said readers should keep an eye out for hidden messages, such as the word "hope" placed throughout the book.
"I would like to see this book in every oncologist's office that deals with breast cancer ... so it can reach the audience that it needs to get to," Wright said.
Wright finished the 27-page book about a year ago. And Harris is now free of the disease and doing well. Wright said the book has a happy ending, and she knows the real-life story will have one, as well.
"Everything is going to be fine," she said.