A journey to remember

Cancer patient coming home following sudden relapse

December 29, 2006

Index-Journal staff writer

The cancer was supposed to go away.
And for a while, it did.
During that time Chris Lawson Oden lived life as normally as she could while suffering from the effects of acute myelogenous leukemia, or AML.
In a rare change since her initial diagnosis in August 2005, she spent more time at home than at the hospital — though regular appointments were kept — and life went on.
Through the lack of coverage by her insurance company (which claimed her cancer was a pre-existing condition) and the loss of her husband J.C.’s job just two weeks after her diagnosis, they persevered. She was still alive.
Despite the late detection of the disease — AML being diagnosed in patients Oden’s age (early 30s) is rare — she had responded well to treatment.
Her cord blood transplant, which was done during a month’s stay at Duke University in January and followed by two months of outpatient treatments, had been successful.
Her hair had returned following extensive chemotherapy. Life was far from normal, but things were better.
She had fought and beaten the cancer.
Even as recently as last month, during which family portraits were made, she was given a clean bill of health in the form of a clear bone marrow biopsy.
But everything has changed.
Late last week she started running a fever of 102.5, forcing her to return to the hospital for more tests.
The possibility of her having contracted a cold — she has no longer has a natural immune system — or some other viral infection was quickly dismissed.
But her counts were suddenly off, and her blood work was not right. Something was terribly wrong.
Through additional tests, including another bone marrow biopsy, family members learned the news they most feared: The cancer had returned — and in aggressive fashion.
“Last Wednesday she was fine,” her sister, Sandi Amyx, said Thursday. “She hadn’t been back in the hospital, except for regular appointments since she had been at Duke with our mother (Frances Regan). It was devastating news for our family.”
Chris and her longtime physician at Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, Dr. Jamie Waselenko, shed many tears on Thursday afternoon.
Now Chris Lawson Oden is coming home.
She and husband J.C., along with daughters Haven Rayne (age 7) and Selah Faith (19 months) left their house in Whitehouse, Tenn., for Greenwood on Thursday.

The choices, if they can be classified as such, remaining for Chris Lawson Oden are hard ones. “She can have more chemotherapy and an extension of her treatments again, but whether or not her body can stand it we don’t know,” Amyx said. “If she does the treatments, it’ll mean she’s at the hospital more than home all over again.
“Or she could take chemotherapy pills and live out the rest of her life. Right now it’s about quantity versus quality.”
Amyx (and the extended family) requests the many friends her sister has in the Greenwood area take this opportunity to drop by the family home for a visit.
“We want her friends to be able to come by the house and tell her how much they love her,” she said.
“She wants to see them. We’ll have family in and out all weekend.”
Doctors have only offered her sister days or weeks in the way of a prognosis for the future. Yet while hope in man’s limited abilities continues to wane, Chris Lawson Oden’s constant faith in God has never wavered.
“It’s all in God’s hands now and He is still in the miracle business,” Amyx said. “From a medical standpoint it’s out of their hands. Believing is the focus now, and through everything she still believes. Her faith has just been so strong through all of this and it continues to be strong.”
“Chris still believes in healing,” her mother said.

Chris Lawson Oden is also thankful.
Doctors did not expect her to survive the week upon her initial diagnosis, but she has. They never expected her to have battled this long, or this hard, but she has.
She is thankful to God for that time.
She’s thankful she will be able to say good-bye to her friends and family in proper fashion, and that she will be able to make lasting mementos for her children through recorded videos and cards.
“Sometimes you ask yourself, especially after getting this type of news, whether or not it’s been worth it all for her to have to have gone through all this,” Amyx said. “It has been worth it. We’ve had a year that otherwise we wouldn’t have had. (Chris) says she can say good-bye to her children and prepare for their future with videos and cards and things like that, and say good-bye to the people she loves.”

Sandi, Chris and their mother, Frances Regan, often sang church songs together. They would sing all over the place, praising God for his love and kindness.
Chris Lawson Oden still has one song yet to sing.
The name of the song is “Is He Real” and — Lord willing — she plans to sing it this Sunday during morning worship at Real Life Ministries here in Greenwood.
The lyrics are gripping and poignant:

You have some questions
Some things you don’t understand
How can this be
Why is this happening to me
And when is it gonna change
You want to know if He’s there
And if He really cares
Does He hear those prayers
You ask if He’s real
I know he is real
I can feel him in my heart
I know he is real
I don’t always understand
But I know I’m in the palm of his hand
You ask if he’s real
I know my Savior’s real
I don’t have all the answers
But I can tell you this
He’s there, He really cares
He even hears all those prayers
He has a purpose and He has a plan
Even when we don’t understand
CHORUS (repeat)
He’s there He cares
I know my Savior’s real

She wrote the song four years ago. That was long before being diagnosed with the cancer that will someday claim her life.
“If she’s able she’s going to church and she’s going to sing that song,” Amyx said. “She said she wanted to come home and sing. God gave her that song.”

Chris Lawson Oden has given as well.
Through her fight against such a grievous adversary, lives have been changed. Her younger sister, Leanne Simmons, has rededicated her life to Christ and her father, Jerry Lawson, has returned to church. For the family, God has moved in many ways.
“There have been a lot of good things that have come about because of this,” Amyx said. “Our family has really come together in a way that it never has before. We’ve had a lot of blessings in how God has used things.”
So the family waits, prays and continues to believe.
“Sometimes (God) heals you here and sometimes He heals you by taking you home to our greater reward,” Regan said. “That’s something we can all hold to, that if God chooses to take her home she won’t suffer anymore. Chris will still believe that He is a healing God with her dying breath.”
Haven Rayne Oden understood fully, despite her tender age.
Upon being given the news that her mom’s sickness had in fact returned, the child cried first.
Then she gathered her thoughts for a moment.
She said if God did decide to take her mother home, that she knew she’d be in heaven with her Nanny and Papa (Regan’s parents), and that she would be OK.
“I cried when she said that,” Regan said. “I thought, what incredible insight coming from such a young child. But that’s the way she’s coping with it. It was touching.”
“We’re still praying for a miracle,” Amyx said. “We know that prayer can still change things.”



Tennessee two-step

Local fans make trip to see USC, Clemson play in bowls

December 29, 2006

Index-Journal sports writer

For some fans of the South Carolina Gamecocks and Clemson Tigers, the best way to watch their teams perform in the Auto Zone Liberty Bowl and the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl is by being among the thousands of fans in attendance.
There will be plenty of fans from the Lakelands area who’ll be screaming at kickoff this afternoon when the Tigers (8-4) take on the Kentucky Wildcats (7-5) at 1 p.m. in Nashville, while the Gamecocks (7-5) face the Houston Cougars (10-3) at 4:30 p.m. in Memphis.
Quite a few fans made the trip to the Volunteer State, including a group of Clemson fans who left early Thursday morning and consider themselves more like a family. Despite the early wake-up and the ensuing eight-hour trip, the fans were still excited about going to watch the Tigers play.
“I got up at 4 o’clock this morning and got here at about 6 o’clock, and that’s normal for an away game,” said Kitty Warner, who drove from Batesburg. “I go to all the away games and all the home games. If Clemson plays like they did against Georgia Tech, then they’ll run Kentucky out of the stadium, but if they play like they did against South Carolina, it’s going to be a tough, close game.”
One longtime fan, Bill Burnett, who did not travel for the first time in a long time, still came out to see the rest of the Tiger faithful off to Nashville.
“I think we have as good a chance as they have to win,” Burnett said, adding “it about killed me to not make the trip.”
Burnett has many friends who are making the trip, including fellow Greenwood resident Mary McClain, who used to travel along with her husband who died a few years ago, to the Tigers’ games.
“We’ve been traveling with Bill for the last 25 years or so,” McClain said. “This is like a family with all the people who’ve been going to all the games together.”
Not all fans are lucky like Warner. Some fans will have to sit huddled around a television or radio at home or with friends watching their team play in Tennessee.
“I hope the Gamecocks win,” Amanda Shealy said. “I have to work, but I’ll probably listen to it on the radio if I can.”
Whatever the outcomes are in these games, there should be plenty to talk about after they are over with because one way or another, it’s going to be a long ride back — once that could be made much shorter with wins by the Palmetto State teams.




Dorothy Blackwell

WARE SHOALS — Dorothy Shaw Blackwell, 86, widow of Reuben Blackwell, formerly of 5345 Highway 252, died Thursday, Dec. 28, 2006 at National Health Care of Laurens.
Born in Abbeville County, she was a daughter of the late James Graydon and Idelle Boles Shaw. She was a member of Harmony United Methodist Church and was retired from Tavern Sportswear.
Surviving are three granddaughters, Crystal Blackwell, Jenny Wood, and Caroline Blackwell, all of Ware Shoals, and an expected great-granddaughter, Ava. She was pre-deceased by two sons, Richard and David Blackwell, one brother, Daniel Shaw, and two sisters, Jimmie Henry and Kathleen Risner.
Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Parker-White Funeral Home, with Rev. Fred Treaster and Rev. Dr. Marcus Bishop officiating. Burial will follow in the Garden of Memories.
The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Parker-White Funeral Home. The family is at the home of her daughter-in-law, Wanda Spence, 337 Turkey Creek Road.

Elizebeth Gardner Bowie

ABBEVILLE — Elizebeth Gardner Bowie, 68, of 225 Branch Street, Abbeville, SC, wife of Solomon Bowie, died Monday, Dec. 25, 2006 at her home.
She was born in McCormick, SC, to the parentage of the late Charlie and Mary Harper Gardner. She was preceded in death by one daughter, Lisa Bowie.
She was a homemaker and attended Long Cane AME Church in Abbeville, SC.
Survivors include her husband of the home; four daughters, Linda Bowie, Helen Bowie, Janet Dawson, and Brittany Bowie, all of Abbeville; four sons, Solomon Bowie, Jr., Clarence Bowie, Horace Bowie of Abbeville and Milous Bowie of Boston, MA; two sisters, Rosa Lee Smith of Abbeville, SC, and Verna Gardner of NY; two brothers, Matthew Gardner and James Gardner of Boston, MA; two grandchildren reared in the home, Andre Bowie and Kendra Bowie; nineteen (19) grandchildren; sixteen (16) great-grandchildren; and four goddaughters.
Services are 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 30, 2006 at Long Cane AME Church in Abbeville, SC, with Rev. Julius Johnson officiating. Burial is in the church cemetery.
Public viewing will be Friday, Dec. 29, 2006 at the Abbeville & White Mortuary, Inc. from 1 p.m.-8 p.m.
Online condolences can be sent to awmort@wctel.net.
The family is at the home.
Abbeville & White Mortuary, Inc. is in charge of arrangements.

Dot Broussard

Dorothy “Dot” Harrison Broussard, 85, resident of 915 Rock House Road, died Dec. 27, 2006 at her home.
Born in Troy, Oct. 12, 1921, she was a daughter of the late George Augustus and Nancy Rosenswike Harrison.
Ms. Broussard was a graduate of Lander College and was of the Baptist faith.
Survivors include a son, Virgil Charles Broussard, II of Chicago, IL; a grandson, Virgil Charles Broussard, III of Chicago; a granddaughter, Kristine Serna of Yorkville, IL and four great-grandchildren.
Funeral services will be conducted at 11 a.m. Saturday from the Blyth Funeral Home Chapel with Rev. H. Bryant Sims officiating.
Burial will follow in Troy cemetery.
Pallbearers will be Winford Wallen, Del Wallen, Robert Harrison, Keith Salters, Thomas Harrison, Brian Taylor, James C. Harrison and Don Crowley.
The family is at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Winford Wallen, 443 Dogwood Drive and will receive friends at the funeral home from 7 to 9 Friday evening.
For additional information and online condolences please visit www.blythfuneralhome.com.
Blyth Funeral Home & Cremation Services is assisting the Broussard family.

Sara Vincent Grant

COLUMBIA — Mrs. Sara Vincent Grant, 62, of Ashby Road in Columbia and formerly of Hampton, SC, died Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2006 in the Palmetto Health Baptist Hospital in Columbia after a brief illness.
Born Aug. 9, 1944 in Hampton County, she was the daughter of the late Francis Marion Vincent and Margaret Thomas Vincent. She was a graduate of the University of South Carolina with a degree in Music Education, taught music in the Vero Beach, Florida, schools for many years and was a member of Delta Omicron. After coming home to Hampton, she was instrumental in the founding of Friends of Hospice, which serves Hampton and Allendale Counties, was a member of the Hampton County Choral Society and participated in many local play productions. She was a member of the Northside Baptist Church in Columbia.
She is survived by her sister, Dottie V. Moore and husband, Pete, of Varnville; her brothers, Jim Vincent and wife, Betty, of Hampton and John Vincent and wife, Martha, of Greenwood, as well as a number of loving nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her husband, Harry E. Grant.
Funeral services will be held Friday at 2 p.m. in the Hampton First Baptist Church, conducted by Rev. Terry Brown and Rev. Joe Reed and directed by Peeples-Rhoden Funeral Home of Hampton. Burial will follow in the Hampton Cemetery.
Friends may call at Peeples-Rhoden Funeral Home, 300 Mulberry St., Hampton, SC, on Thursday evening from 6 until 8 p.m. and prior to the services on Friday, when the casket will be placed in the church at 1 p.m.
The family suggests that memorials be made to Friends of Hospice, PO Box 909, Estill, SC 29918.

Marvin Wrenn

WATERLOO — Marvin Lee Wrenn, 83, of 503 Cannon Road, widower of Irene Pryor Wrenn, died Dec. 27, 2006 at his home. He was born in Laurens County, a son of the late Joe and Beatrice Weathers Wrenn. He was a retired brick mason and was of the Holiness Faith.
Surviving are two sons, Jimmie Wrenn and Ricky Wrenn, both of Waterloo, four daughters, Betty Burdette, Janet Hilley, Mary May and Nancy Strickland, all of Waterloo, one sister, Frances Nation of Waterloo, thirteen grandchildren and sixteen great-grandchildren. She was pre-deceased by five brothers, Harold, Joseph, Ralph, J.W. and Marion Wrenn and a sister, Anna Sue McAllister.
Funeral services will be conducted Saturday at 11 a.m. at Bethlehem Union Church, with Rev. Bobby Davis, Rev. Grady Lothridge and Rev. Billy Pinson officiating. Burial will follow in the church cemetery.
Active pallbearers will be grandsons.
The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Parker-White Funeral Home, Ware Shoals. The body will be placed in the church at 10 a.m. Saturday. The family is at the home.

James Edward Young

McCORMICK — James Edward Young, 64, of 500 Pine St. Extension, Apt C-4, died Thursday, Dec. 28, 2006, at his home.
The family is at the home.
Services will be announced by Robinson & Son Mortuary Inc., Greenwood.




Godfather of Soul gave the best order of his life

December 29, 2006

James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, was a lot of things. Most of all, though, he was a showman who had few equals. That, no doubt, is how many will remember this rags to riches legend from Beech Island, S. C., who died this week at age 73.
Brown’s influence on musical history cannot be over-emphasized. His high-energy approach affected everything from rhythm and blues to gospel to rap, and just about everything in between.
It’s no secret that this was a complicated man who lived a troubled life. Considering the demoralizing pressures that marked his youth, as well as the hard young life he was forced to live, and one he rose above, his troubles still may not be excusable to some. They are, however, easily understandable.

THERE AREN’T MANY AMONG us who could take the hard knocks this talented man did and still show the world he had what it took to keep the demons within his soul from destroying that talent and determination born of poverty and necessity. His longevity and widespread influence in the world of entertainment leaves little doubt about either of those attributes.
All of that, of course, as outstanding as it is, could be a legacy all in itself. There was one instance, though, that overshadows everything else. His words at a particularly trying time in this nation’s history were statesmanlike and did much for the stability of a disturbed society.

WHEN THE ANGER OF A CROWD of demonstrators was brewing in the wake of the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Brown made a difference ..... a big difference. The Rev. Al Sharpton, a longtime friend noted that as angry crowds gathered, Brown stepped to the microphone and told them to go home. “And they went home,” Sharpton said.
Those words should go down in history as the legacy of a legendary entertainer. What they meant to all Americans, black and white, is incalculable. They put out a spark that could have easily become a raging fire from coast to coast.
Few like James Brown come along. They give much more than they take. “I Feel Good” was more than a hit recording for this Godfather. It was a commentary on how he looked at life and everybody around him.