Thursday, January 18, 2018

Harrison County Recognizes National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The American Cancer Association designates October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a successful campaign coinciding with a steady decrease in breast cancer incidence rates in the U.S. by 2% per year. Even with this decrease, about one in eight U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are second only to those of lung cancer.

Read more: Harrison County Recognizes National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

For the Love of Science: Connecting the Classroom to the Real World

Fall is such an exciting time of year for me, and not just because our famous Gulf Coast heat is starting to ease up a bit. As a junior high and high school teacher, my joy comes in witnessing those moments when my students make an “aha!” connection with the natural science we’ve been covering in the classroom as well as with what we’re seeing quite literally out the front door of the school.

Read more: For the Love of Science: Connecting the Classroom to the Real World

Guitar Pickin’, Tambourine Shakin’, and Closeness Under the Stars: Coastal Bonfires and Campfires for Fall

Sugary roasted marshmallows. Guitar pickin’ and tambourine shakin’. Hot dogs. Legendary ghost stories that are as difficult to believe as they are spine-tingling. Occasionally out-of-tune, but spirited and character-filled renditions of “She’ll be Comin’ Round the Mountain” and “Kumbaya.” Add to this picture an endless collection of night stars winking at loved ones huddled around the glow of a fire, and a portrait of true family closeness is complete. It is a portrait the stars have witnessed in some form or another since the very first family built the very first fire.

Read more: Guitar Pickin’, Tambourine Shakin’, and Closeness Under the Stars: Coastal Bonfires and...

Helping South Mississippi Women: Long Beach's “Pink Heart Funds”

“You have breast cancer.” Those words bore deep inside the ears of a million women every year, producing fear and panic.

“Why me?” is the next question so many women ask.

That was what went through JoAn Nicely’s head after she heard those very words in 2002. After finding a lump by self-exam, Nicely made an appointment with her physician and—after multiple surgeries and treatments—she is now a 12-year survivor.

Today, she uses her experience to help others now coming face-to-face with the disease that touches so many.

“I had no idea of the gifts I was to receive to inspire, encourage and give hope to others. I drew strength from my faith, doctors, family and a multitude of friends,” said Nicely, a hairdresser from Long Beach.

It all began with a pink heart-shaped box she placed in her hair salon to solicit donations to help buy wigs for those who had lost their hair while undergoing cancer treatment.

“I wanted to defray the cost to help local women, children and some men who could not afford the wigs while undergoing cancer treatments,” said Nicely.

In 2005, Nicely founded the “Pink Heart Funds” and holds several fundraisers throughout the year: auctions, dinners, teas, a 5-K walk/run. Through these events—and through additional monetary donations—the fund has provided for 3,000 wigs, 1,000 breast prostheses, and 100 lymphedema sleeves.

Not all donations are made in cash; some are made in hair. Nicely’s salon also collects ponytails of 7-8 inches from local children and adult volunteers to be manufactured into human hair wigs.

“Pink Heart Funds” exists to inspire, encourage and restore hope for persons affected with cancer and hair loss disorders. By 2006, what started as $500 in a pink heart-shaped box became a booming nonprofit organization with an all-volunteer leadership.

“I never dreamed how far-reaching this humble gesture would lead,” said Nicely, of her organization's success.

Currently in the United States, women have a 12.5% chance, or a 1 in 8 lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer; many of these women are a part of our families here in South Mississippi. According to the 2012 American Cancer Society, Inc. Facts and Figures of Atlanta, Ga., the chances in the year 1970 were 1 in 11. The increase is likely due to longer life expectancy, changes in reproductive patterns over the decades, menopausal hormone use, increased prevalence of obesity in older adults, and gains in detection through screening.

There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer. However, regular mammograms for women over age 40 are important for early detection.

Remember, this is your health; be aware, keep positive and be informed. When possible, show that you care for women facing cancer by supporting the efforts of Nicely's “Pink Hearts Fund.”


Gail Stopson is a retired RN and a freelance writer living in Long Beach, Miss.

How to Help a Student with Test-Taking Anxiety

Mysterious stomachaches on test day. Reports of blanking out or freezing up during a test. Complaints of knowing the answers last night, but not today during test time. If you notice your student showing physical and emotional symptoms of stress whenever a test is around the corner, you’re likely dealing with test anxiety, a type of performance anxiety. Though some fear is to be expected, overwhelming test anxiety should be addressed.

What causes test anxiety? According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, test anxiety is typically caused by a fear of failure, previous problems with test-taking, or lack of preparation. Many students put too much pressure on themselves or worry about what might go wrong. Others become stressed when a test carries a lot of importance. Some students even worry about the physical side effects that can accompany test stress -- sweating or heart pounding for example.

Who experiences test anxiety? All kinds of students. Those with perfectionist tendencies often experience testing anxiety because they struggle with the idea of making a mistake. Students with low self-esteem may believe they are doomed to fail. Sometimes, students who do poorly on one exam begin to dread future tests, even in different subjects. Of course, students who don’t prepare adequately may also experience test anxiety. Even poor testing conditions and test format can influence a student’s stress level.

What can parents do? Try to identify the cause of your student’s fear so you can appropriately address it. Reassure your student that you and the teacher only expect his or her best effort. If your student’s stress stems from not enough studying, he or she may need help improving his or her time management or study skills. Here are several other ways you can work with your student to reduce his or her test-taking fears:

  • Be sure your student studies the right material and pays attention to any study guides or other tips from the teacher about what may appear on the test. 
  • Make sure your student gets a good night’s sleep and eats a healthy meal before test day. 
  • Review test-taking strategies with your student from time to time. For example, remind him or her of the importance of reading instructions completely and budgeting his or her time. 
  • Help your student learn relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and positive visualization. Encourage him or her to use these methods of calming him or herself during tests.

What shouldn’t parents do?

  • Don’t put too much emphasis on your child’s grades or test scores. Overreacting to grades -- positive or negative -- can put even more stress on your child. 
  • Don’t judge your student’s abilities on a single test score. Scores can be affected by any number of factors and are not an exact measure of a student’s knowledge. Instead, pay attention to trends in performance. 
  • Don’t ignore test anxiety or hope it will just go away. Your student may need extra help with tests in the form of tutoring or extra time. Talk to the teacher if you’re concerned about your student’s testing anxiety.

If your student tends to stress or panic about tests, overcoming this issue will take patience and practice. But with your help and support, he or she can master this fear and become a better, more confident test-taker.


Dr. Raymond J. Huntington and Eileen Huntington are co-founders of Huntington Learning Center, which has been helping children succeed in school for more than 30 years. For more information about Huntington, call 1-800 CAN LEARN.

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