A positive FORCE

How wonderful that Angelina Jolie, a strong woman with superstar power, shared her personal experience about taking a bold step to avoid breast cancer because of her genetic make-up. I have met many women who also have made the decision to have a mastectomy prophylactically because they discovered having the BRACA gene mutation.

There are just as many trying to make decisions on how to best manage knowing about their risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer. When the choice is mastectomy and breast reconstruction, it’s important for women to understand all of the options available and make an informed decision about something that will impact the rest of their lives.

I had the privilege of attending a national conference focused on providing education, support and resources to women facing these tough decisions — FORCE. The mission of FORCE (facingourrisk.org) is to improve the lives of individuals and families affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. I have been attending with my plastic surgeon, Dr. Richard Kline, to help women who opt for mastectomy understand all of their breast reconstruction options and talk to them about how to make the best choices.

As a breast cancer survivor and reconstruction success story, talking to women at FORCE and other organizations brings me a great sense of contributing to the lives of others by sharing my experience and, in some cases, just being an ear for them to share their fears and emotions.

Women should take charge of their health. If they are at high risk, get genetic testing. If they have the BRACA mutation, go into action. Explore the options for preventing breast cancer, whether they be aggressive observation, medication or mastectomy and reconstruction.

And know there are others and organizations ready to offer support.

Shirley T. Thomas

Magnolia Woods Drive

Mount Pleasant

Being homeless

Too often we lose sight of those who are rarely featured in the news for they are rarely on the media radar for dastardly deeds, meritorious wonders or acts of courage. They are those who struggle one more day to find a place to lay their heads when night arrives, a hot filling meal, and a friend.

These are the over one million citizens of the United States who have found themselves in circumstances that resulted in them being considered homeless, a situation, which according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, is often a temporary circumstance, not a permanent condition.

While there are many faces of the homeless, some have become invisible in spite of an increase over the last five years due in part to the lack of affordable housing production, the vacillating employment market and declining wages.

Walking through Carolyn Ter Poorten’s exhibit themed, “Our Homeless,” in the Saul Alexander Gallery in the Charleston County Public Library inspired me to awaken my consciousness. Her vivid use of color and bold brush strokes enlivened the characters and faces of guests who lived at Charleston’s Crisis Ministries over the course of 10 years. Carolyn’s portraits reminded me that we all pretty much wish for the same thing and that status and circumstance do not make us desire less.

At the end of the day, being acknowledged and loved is most important. In Carolyn’s portraits I saw the familiar human qualities that we all share. I am also reminded that some of us have seen hard times and may ourselves be only a step away from this “temporary circumstance.”

For those who need a dose of “vivid reality,” please visit the library and catch Carolyn’s exhibit until the end of May. All proceeds from the sale of her portraits will be donated to the Crisis Ministries.

Linda P. Williams

Darrell Creek

Mount Pleasant

Skewed priorities

Some folks are livid because SLED removed a Canada Goose nest from an area near the crime lab.

The geese were chasing the crime lab workers and being a general nuisance. The article states that animal lovers were so incensed by this action that they want to fight against institutional cruelty and hold a memorial service for the loss of the birds, the nest and the bird eggs.

As one bird lover said, “These are birds for God’s sake. They don’t have teeth. This is not a man with a gun coming at you, or a criminal in a car trying to run you over.”

Where are all these memorial holders and demonstrators when there are hundreds of locations all across the United States where people go of their own free will for abortions for no other reason than having it would cause an inconvenience?

These are just babies, for God’s sake. They don’t have teeth. This isn’t a man with a gun coming at you, or a criminal in a car trying to run you over.

Bob Martin

Homer Drive

Cross

Learn the anthem

Serena Williams is one heck of a tennis player, always winning, and she recently wowed the crowd in Rome by accepting her trophy and thanking the crowd in their native language, Italian.

But please, someone teach her the words to the Star Spangled Banner so she can mimic the words, if she can’t sing, and place her right hand over her heart so that the TV world can see her respect the national anthem rather than making small talk and laughing on the podium while the band plays in honor of our nation and her victory.

Thomas E. Thornhill

Oceanic Street

Charleston

Zero tolerance

A recent letter about zero tolerance in schools mentioned expelling a 7-year-old boy for chewing a pop tart into the shape of a gun.

I’ve recently learned that to alleviate the fears about this dangerous situation happening again, school officials have decreed that in the future all pop tarts will have an orange band of icing around one end to show that if chewed into the shape of a gun that it’s not a real. As an added safety precaution, those concerned about the high capacity of fruit fillings in said pop tarts and to the dangers they may cause to others nearby, school officials have strictly limited said capacity to no more than 1/4-ounce per pop tart.

I guess this whole question of zero tolerance goes to show that common sense ain’t all that common.

Ron Hamorsky

Branchwood Drive

Goose Creek

Books and reading

The Read to Succeed bill would be smoke and mirrors were it not for the tremendous damage it could inflict, if passed, on thousands of young and innocent children.

We all want our children to read and read well. We know, as educated adults, that reading is the key to future academic success, and to becoming employed and participating citizens in our democracy.

We also know, thanks to years of research, that the key to being good readers for all children is those critical years of early childhood.

Children who come from families where books and reading are part of family life have a head start in that regard, but it isn’t one that can’t be overcome.

Strong public early childhood education has a 17 to 1 return on investment for success in later life.

What else works? Intensive early school intervention such as Reading Recovery, highly trained reading interventionists, double doses of reading instruction, professional development in reading for all teachers, smaller class sizes, and a laser like focus on reading until the skills are mastered.

What isn’t successful in addressing the issue of poor readers? In a word, “retention.”

All of the research shows that retention, regardless of the grade a child is retained, increases the likelihood that they will drop out of school. Retention rates are 15 percent to 20 percent higher for children of poverty and children of color. Retention is one of the most stressful things children can imagine. Retention is not cost effective. At best, it requires the tax-paying public to front the bill for an additional year of school.

At worst, and the worst is generally the case, retention does nothing to improve student performance and greatly increases the likelihood that a child will wind up out of school, without the skills to make a living and at serious risk of falling between the cracks.

I urge the Legislature to read the research on retention. A summer reading program for poor readers, while nice, isn’t a silver bullet.

If you really care about the future of South Carolina’s children, do the right thing. Fund early childhood programs for all at-risk children, fully fund the base student allocation, and provide highly skilled intervention to those children who need it.

Jane Pulling

Pinopolis Road

Pinopolis

Drip, drip, drip

The May 14 Commentary Page may well have marked the beginning of the end of this presidency. Both George Will’s and Maureen Dowd’s column’s are very revealing. Will compares the slow drips of information on the Nixon scandal which lead to more and more investigative reporting which forced the resignation. He outlined clearly the press starting to take another look at Obama rather than defending him.

Unbelievably, The Washington Post and The New York Times have for the first time in the last few days been critical on their front pages and editorials. Maureen Dowd’s column floored me. When this far left lady does a complete about face on Obama you know something big is coming. The fact that three major scandals have hit the administration in the last few days is a pending disaster for Obama.

The Benghazi cover-up, the IRS targeting of conservative groups and the Department of Justice spying on Associated Press reporters each could bring down the president. Combined they surely will at least so weaken him that he will be an ineffective lame duck. We can also expect, and it has already started, his own Democrat members of the House and Senate deserting him.

The mid-term elections next year are going to see a mad scramble to put distance between most Democrats running and the president. The drip drips of new revelations with the Woodwards of the world probing will turn into a full flood and we may very well have a different president by the mid-summer of 2014.

Ernest J. Berger

Deer Point Drive

Seabrook Island

Dock permits

Many times I have seen an advertisement for property for sale that lists a dock permit as one of the features. There’s a good reason why the selling owner applies for a permit with no intention of actually building a dock.

The permit alone increases the value of the property considerably. Sounds like a good deal for the seller. Just fill out some paperwork and wait a while for the bonus.

The buyer is, however, stuck with an expensive piece of paper whether he intends to build a dock or not. If he actually wants a dock, he could have applied for a permit himself, at minimal expense, rather than paying a sizable extra amount over the appraised value.

In my opinion, the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resources and Management should not issue such “blank” permits, but require that an approved dock permit be actually used by the current owner within a reasonable period, not used as a property value enhancer.

Robert O. Wray

Cottage Plantation Road

Johns Island