2 years ago

Alabama’s Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center brings hope, wholeness in recovery

Being diagnosed with breast cancer is like being a member of an exclusive club you never wanted to be in.

That’s how Linda Brady described the feeling when, talking with her doctor after a couple of mammograms, she heard the words, “You have breast cancer.”

Hearing the dreaded ‘cancer’ word

“He diagnosed me with ductal invasive carcinoma on Feb. 16, 2016. I kind of blacked out,” said Brady, who was two years into retirement from Vestavia Hills City Schools, where she had served as the director of the Exceptional Children’s Department.

About 80 percent of all breast cancers are invasive ductal carcinomas – invasive indicates that the cancer has spread to surrounding breast tissues. Brady said that the situation was confusing, forcing her to make huge decisions in a short time frame.

“I was seeing three separate doctors at that point in time: my breast surgeon, my reconstructive surgeon and my medical oncologist,” said Brady, whose energy and vibrant personality belie her 62 years – and her battle with breast cancer. “So I was making decisions the best way I could, but the people I really wanted to talk to were breast cancer survivors.”

She immediately contacted two friends – teachers she had worked with – who were breast cancer survivors.

Three weeks after diagnosis, Brady had a double mastectomy, during which the surgeon also removed four lymph nodes.

“That was the beginning of my survivorship and my cancer journey,” Brady said.

Facing the realities – but not alone

Laying in a recliner and receiving chemo can be the loneliest time in the world, even though 10 other people may be present.

“The people you really want to talk to are the people who have been through breast cancer, and survived it,” Brady said.

Two childhood friends and her husband supported Brady through her surgery and recovery. She received special solace from Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center, where she found a community that understood and could relate to her battle.

Brady said she has read studies showing that people diagnosed with cancer absorb only 30 percent of the information their doctor tells them. Her experiences made Brady want to help others by serving as a peer mentor at Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center.

“Being with other breast cancer survivors and seeing how well they’ve done is a very positive thing when you’ve been diagnosed,” Brady said. “One of the things that Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center does very well is, if you want to attend a support group, want a mentor or an advocate, Forge can put you in contact with trained volunteers who have been trained to do those jobs.”

Forging new hope for survivors, families

Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center is a collaboration between Brookwood Baptist Health, Grandview Medical Center, St. Vincent’s Health System, UAB Medicine, the Women’s Breast Health Fund, the Community Foundation of Greater Birminghamand community partners.

Dr. Caroline McClain, manager of Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center, is devoted to making sure clients receive the best care. A clinician and co-survivor who has been involved in healthcare and nonprofit work throughout her career, McClain said that Forge is designed to both fill gaps and erase barriers to care. Her responsibilities run the gamut, from managing the phone line and assisting clients with situations to ensuring the center delivers on its mission and looks strategically at offerings for the community.

“We were created to serve breast cancer survivors,” said McClain, who manages a staff of five, including community outreach members and 50 volunteers. “The goal isn’t to duplicate healthcare resources but to bolster the services of medical providers and others.”

Forge provides clients with tip sheets ranging from nutrition to information on managing side-effects during treatment, to peer mentorship services and a phone support line. When survivors or co-survivors call, a caring staff member talks through their questions and needs. Together, they create an individualized plan to address each need. Clients are provided with resource lists, as well.

Forge provides a monthly gardening class at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. From 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Oct. 23, attendees will learn about composting and survivorship topics while creating a compost bin to take home.

“These monthly classes are designed for anyone who has ever been diagnosed with breast cancer, as well as their loved ones and the health professionals who serve them,” McClain said.

Recently, Forge provided a weekend of free massages, meditative yoga, humor discussion and time to walk the labyrinth at the Benedictine Retreat Center in Cullman. Forge started a breast cancer support group in Blount County, which has transitioned back to the community while providing logistical support. Forge holds quarterly support group meetings for metastatic survivors at partner locations for patients and their caregivers.

“Our mentorship and advocacy program are most important,” McClain said. “We can help align clients with a peer mentor if they desire. Patients can be on the phone and get the support they need.” Volunteer training for peer mentors and advocates is provided up to four times a year.

The center assists co-survivors as well. Families can experience many pressures as a result of the illness.

“We have spouses and siblings who call for advice, asking how to handle health issues,” McClain said. “We help them with practical, important things like having a living will and counseling services. Play therapy is important for kids who have a parent with the illness.”

She said doctor’s offices call Forge as soon as a patient receives a cancer diagnosis, and patient navigators call when the patient has given permission.

“We can call the patient, or they can call us when they’re ready,” McClain said. “Even if families have the money to deal with such an illness, they need as much support as possible, for budgeting, medicines, scholarships, handling paperwork for insurance. We help them navigate the healthcare system and their diagnosis.

“It’s all flexible,” she said. “It’s ultimately about what’s beneficial for them.”

Forge staff assess patient needs, set goals and provide information to help achieve the objectives and continue to follow up with the patient throughout the process. McClain said patients and their families sometimes have questions about genetic testing, as well as signs to be aware of for a potential recurrence of illness.

“We’re here to support survivors and their families, every step of the way,” McClain said.

Comic’s ‘merry heart’ helps her beat illness

Birmingham comedienne Carla “The Truth” Youngblood can find humor in almost any life situation, but a cancer diagnosis was no laughing matter.

About three years ago, Youngblood began experiencing occasional pain in her chest. She circumvented her fears by telling herself it was indigestion.

“I knew that something felt ‘off.’ I’d get a hardening sensation,” Youngblood said.

She went to her doctor and received a diagnosis on Nov. 3, 2015.

“I had cancer in my right breast, but after discovery, I said that I wanted to do a double mastectomy,” said Youngblood, who didn’t want to leave anything to chance.

She underwent successful surgery and treatment at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham. Youngblood made sure to take the time to heal, getting plenty of rest.

“I wanted my best outcome,” Youngblood said. “I followed my doctor’s instructions to the letter.”

Deciding against reconstruction, Youngblood began the first of her 28 radiation treatments just eight weeks after surgery. She endured 16 rounds of chemotherapy.

“I was doing shows during my chemo,” she said, “mostly early on in the chemotherapy. Later, I opted to not do as many shows.”

‘The truth about breast cancer’

Despite the difficulties of treatment, Youngblood said that she always tells people that life is good. As Youngblood talks, a smile often lights up her face.

“I’m enjoying my journey in a comical perspective to let people know it’s all in how you look at it,” she said, with a smile. “You can come out on this, on the positive end.”

She enjoys serving as a peer volunteer for Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center. Youngblood said it helps to shift the focus away from herself and onto the other person. Indeed, her goal as a peer is to “listen to the patient and encourage her to get positive.”

“There is life after cancer,” Youngblood said.

Through peer-to-peer counseling, she is assigned to a patient and stays in direct contact, whether by phone to provide advice or to serve as a sounding board, and in-person meetings.

“I was determined to get to the other side and be a testament to someone else,” Youngblood said. “I have two options: I can laugh, or I can cry. My goal was to get to the other end, alive and well. I want other people to have that positive mindset. A positive attitude was a big plus for me.”

In her professional life as a successful comedienne, Youngblood serves her audience an upbeat message. When she performs on Oct. 11 at Boutwell Auditorium in Birmingham at 6 p.m., Youngblood’s show will include her history as a cancer survivor. Tickets to the “Ain’t no looking back” comedy tour are $20.

“It’s the same thing that I try to get across serving as a peer advocate,” Youngblood said. “When I’m working with these other survivors, knowing I’m making a difference and filling a void that could possibly be there, if I wasn’t there, that means the world to me. In the peer advocate world, you can find people that patients can talk to, but often, those people haven’t been there.

“At Forge, it makes a difference to talk with someone who’s been down that road before,” Youngblood said. “I love it when a patient says, ‘You always know the right time to call me. I needed someone right now.’

“To encourage others and find your place in society where you can give back means a lot,” she said.

For more information, call Forge Breast Cancer Center at 1-800-811-8925 or 205-838-6159, or email McClain at Caroline@Forgeon.org.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

12 mins ago

7 Things: Vaccine skepticism grips nation, UA hunts silent outbreaks, Alabama’s initial unemployment claims are steady and more …

7. Alabama’s richest man kidnapped

  • The retired CEO of EBSCO Industries, Elton B. Stephens, Jr,, with a family net worth of $4 billion dollars was kidnapped and held for ransom one week ago, but he is now back home after the arrest of two people involved in the caper.
  • Matthew Amos Burke, 34, and Tabatha Nicole Hodges, 33, broke into Stephen’s house allegedly stealing jewelry and three firearms before waking the home’s occupant. They took him to a trailer in St. Clair County and forced him to wire $250,000 into their account before releasing him.

6. Antifa is real


  • FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the House Homeland Security Committee and said, “Antifa is a real thing. It’s not a group or an organization. It’s a movement, or an ideology may be one way of thinking of it.” He went on to say that some of their investigations have been into situations with people who identify as Antifa.
  • During his testimony, he also confirmed where domestic terrorism threats are concerned. He outlined, “[R]acially motivated violent extremism is, I think, the biggest bucket within that larger group. And within the racially motivated violent extremist bucket, people subscribing to some kind of white supremacist-type ideology is certainly the biggest chunk of that.”

5. A child abuser was released through bail program promoted by Harris and Biden

  • The Minnesota Freedom Fund was promoted by staffers for former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), and one of the men released by the bail fund was a child abuser.
  • The man in question, Timothy Wayne Columbus, was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct for a sexual assault on an eight-year-old in 2015, and when he was bailed out of jail, he filed it through the Minnesota Freedom Fund.

4. Dems think they can push Biden to be more progressive

  • While in an interview with “Just the News,” U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) spoke about the difference between U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Vice President Joe Biden, mostly noting the difference in how “progressive” they are.
  • Ocasio-Cortez honestly stated that she believes more progressive members “can likely push Vice President Biden to a more progressive direction across policy issues,” specifically mentioning foreign policy and immigration.

3. Unemployment remains steady

  • For the last couple of weeks, initial unemployment claims in Alabama have remained mostly unchanged, according to a new report by the Alabama Labor Department. There has only been a decrease of 54 claims week-to-week.
  • From this past week, there were 8,848 initial claims, but in the week previous there were 8,902 initial claims, which is only a 0.6% decrease. However, 4,485 of the most recent claims were due to the coronavirus pandemic.

2. Alabama tweaks its testing strategy

  • The University of Alabama continues to be bullish on the school’s response to the coronavirus, so much so that Chancellor Finis St. John says the school is testing a sampling of asymptomatic students, teachers and staffers to seek out silent outbreaks and have only found three positive tests out of 400+ tests of that sample.
  • Echoing the situation with Big Ten football and the SEC, St. John was happy that Alabama stayed the course, saying they “trusted our plan and our people and had the courage to see it through.” He pointed out that schools that canceled or delayed in-person learning before the semester started or soon after returning may have jumped the gun.

1. Majority of people won’t trust a vaccine released before the election

  • A new Economist/YouGov poll shows that 59% of people wouldn’t trust a coronavirus vaccine released before the general election on November 3, due to safety and efficacy concerns.
  • Even 50% of Republicans say they wouldn’t trust a vaccine released before the election, and only 39% of people plan to get vaccinated when it’s available. According to the poll, 72% of participants said they’re concerned about the safety of the vaccine.

1 hour ago

Montgomery’s Joe Espy rolls off University of Alabama System board of trustees

Joe Espy III on Thursday served his final meeting as a member of the University of Alabama System board of trustees.

Espy, a world-class attorney based in Montgomery, has served on the prestigious board since 2000 representing Alabama’s Second Congressional District.

He graduated from the University of Alabama in 1969, earning a Bachelor’s Degree through the School of Commerce and Business Administration after serving as SGA president. Espy then graduated with a Juris Doctorate in 1972 from the University of Alabama School of Law.

The distinguished trial lawyer would go on to serve three terms as president pro tem of the UA System board of trustees. Espy has previously been named to Yellowhammer Multimedia’s annual list of the most powerful and influential Alabamians.


His departure from the UA System board is due to Espy no longer being eligible for another term because of the maximum age limit.

He is now a trustee emeritus, joining a list of legendary Alabamians who hold the same title.

Fellow trustees honored Espy at the conclusion of Thursday’s business with a formal resolution and a slew of glowing remarks.

Trustee Karen Brooks of the Seventh Congressional District moved to consider the resolution while holding up a small placard with Espy’s headshot on it. She also displayed a poster containing several Espy images in the background behind her, with the meeting being held virtually and live streamed.

Judge John England, Jr., also representing the Seventh Congressional District, was the first to speak.

“You know, I have to be careful,” England quipped. “You can’t say too many good things about lawyers.”

England continued to praise Espy as “a man of integrity” who “cares about this state, this [System] and the people in this state.”

“One of the things I’ve learned on this board is that it’s an honor to serve, but it’s an even greater honor to be able to serve with individuals like Joe Espy,” England commented. “And I mean that.”

RELATED: UA System Board of Trustees names freshman hall for John England, Jr.

Trustee Marietta Urquhart of the First Congressional District spoke next.

She lauded Espy’s record of “servant leadership,” calling him “an example to us all.”

Urquhart added that trustees moving forward will be using the litmus test of, “What would Joe Espy do?” when making tough decisions.

Next up was Brooks.

“I’ll tell you, you have been our quarterback,” she said to Espy.

“We are eternally grateful to you for being our friend and for being such a great leader,” Brooks remarked. “The legacy I hope you leave all of us is ‘put students first.’ Your passion for students is second to none.”

She outlined that she will be taking her Espy placard to every subsequent meeting to remind the board to “put the students first.”

“Matter of fact, I think I’ll give each trustee one,” Brooks stated.

Outgoing pro tem Ron Gray of the Fifth Congressional District concluded the remarks.

“Joe, this board, the University of Alabama System and the state of Alabama owes you a debt of gratitude for your 20 years of service on this board,” Gray said. “Thank you for your service and steadfast leadership.”

Following the unanimous passage of the resolution celebrating and honoring Espy’s exemplary service, the man himself delivered some brief remarks and humbly thanked his fellow trustees.


Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

What impact will Chad Morris have on the Auburn offense in 2020?

Gus Malzahn and Chad Morris’ relationship stretches back decades at this point. When Morris was hired, he told the story of badgering Malzahn for information on his innovative offensive style multiple times until finally wearing him down into sharing some secrets when they were high school coaches in Texas and Arkansas, respectively.

Those early interactions paved the way to a friendship between two men that would eventually walk many of the same roads from coaching in high school to the SEC.

When Morris was let go as Arkansas’ head coach in 2019, it did not take long for the two friends to decide to work together in 2020. In a normal offseason the biggest story for Auburn football would have been the hiring of Chad Morris as offensive coordinator. Clearly, 2020 has been nowhere near normal.


Today, we take a deeper look at potential impacts the new hire could have on The Plains this season. Morris’ input in the following three areas could unlock the Auburn offense’s full potential this year.

Passing Game
Gus Malzahn-led teams rarely have real issues running the football. The Auburn Tigers have run the ball more frequently and effectively than most teams in the country during Malzahn’s tenure. The aspect of the offense that often struggles to find consistency has been the passing game.

While Chad Morris patterned his offensive style directly after Malzahn, in the past decade he has had more production throwing the ball than his current head coach. It appears that Chad Morris simply likes to throw the ball more than Malzahn. In the 10 seasons that Morris has been a college coach, his offenses have attempted at least 34 pass attempts a game nine times. Malzahn, on the other hand, has never had a season where his team attempted more than 30 passes per game.

Beyond a sheer disparity in volume, there is also a difference in the kind of passes that the offenses frequently attempt. Chad Morris was a much earlier adopter of the RPO (run-pass option) and also tends to have more passes target the middle of the field. Malzahn’s passing game has been primarily based around deep shots off play action or various screens that attack the perimeter quickly.

All of those passing schemes (and more) are effective when called cleverly and executed properly. It will likely be an indication of Morris’ involvement if the Tigers average somewhere near 35 pass attempts per game with more targets happening over the middle of the field this season.

When referencing personnel, we are simply pointing out the grouping of players on the field and how they are deployed on a given play. Gus Malzahn tends to favor two backs (tailback and H-back) and three receivers. Chad Morris on the other hand, has deployed one tailback, one tight end and three receivers as his most common grouping.

The use of an H-back versus a tight end may seem small, but it can lead to pretty significant differences in the choices that opposing defenses make to counter an offense. Some tight ends and H-backs are interchangeable, which can be a strength if used creatively. However, most H-backs are primarily blockers (like an I-formation fullback), whereas tight ends are valuable targets over the middle of the field in the passing game and valuable blockers on the edge in the running attack.

For example, last season at Arkansas, TE Cheyene O’Grady accounted for 33 catches for 372 yards along with three touchdown receptions in only seven games played. By contrast, Auburn’s John Samuel Shenker and Harold Joiner combined for nine catches, 129 yards and two touchdowns in 13 games last season.

Chad Morris’ history of using the tight end along with a renewed focus on recruiting the tight end position my signal more use of that position going forward. Expect to see a continuation of the use of an H-back, but a dramatic uptick in the use of the tight end position could point to Chad Morris exerting his influence on the gameplan.

Auburn fans are likely familiar with the fact that Gus Malzahn literally wrote the book on the hurry up no huddle offense. Clearly, the use of pace was one of the key factors in Malzahn’s rise as coach, and it continues to be a weapon today.

However, last week when Chad Morris addressed the media, he seemed to indicate a slightly different take on how an offense’s pace of play should be used in today’s game. In Morris’ opinion, it is now less important to snap the ball as quickly as possible every play than it is to be able to change the speed of play effectively.

Morris conveyed that he hopes to use versatile players that are able to line up in different places and perform multiple skills so that when Auburn gains an advantage in matchups, the offense can then speed up to require the defense to remain on the field and at a disadvantage.

It will be interesting to see if a revamped passing game, new personnel groupings, varied pace or any other noticeable wrinkles, coincide with Chad Morris’ arrival on The Plains this fall.

Auburn’s offense must take the next step to being a consistently explosive group this year to contend for the SEC championship. If Morris can facilitate that production, then the Tigers will have a chance to make the 2020 season one that Auburn fans remember fondly for years to come.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

14 hours ago

Regions Bank offering disaster recovery assistance to Alabama customers impacted by Sally

Regions Bank on Thursday evening announced a series of generous financial services that are available to help people and businesses in portions of Alabama, Florida and Mississippi that were negatively affected by Hurricane Sally this week.

According to the Birmingham-based company, options include payment extensions, the waiving of certain fees and interest rate discounts, along with additional offers.

“Regions Bank has been part of the Gulf Coast and our inland communities for many years, and we will be here in the days, weeks and months to come as storm recovery moves forward,” stated John Turner, president and CEO of Regions Financial Corp.

“These financial services are designed to make the recovery easier, and we encourage all customers impacted by Sally to contact us and discuss your individual needs,” he continued.


Disaster recovery financial services available for a limited time will include the following:

  • No check-cashing fee for FEMA-issued checks cashed at Regions branches in impacted areas
  • Regions Mortgage Disaster Relief Purchase and Renovation loan programs
  • Personal and business loan payment assistance
  • Regions fees will be waived when the bank’s customers use other banks’ ATMs in the impacted areas for 30 days beginning Friday, Sept. 18
  • One penalty-free CD withdrawal
  • An interest rate discount of 0.50% on new personal unsecured loans
  • Business loan payment deferrals available up to 90 days beginning Friday, Sept. 18
  • Payment extensions available for qualified credit card holders
  • An interest rate discount of 0.50% on standard rates for new business loans and/or lines of credit up to $1 million to help with recovery needs in affected areas
  • An interest rate discount of 0.50% on a new unsecured business term loan of up to $50,000 with a term of up to 36 months, including waived origination or loan document fees and options for the first payment to be deferred up to 90 days

People and businesses in need of assistance are encouraged to contact Regions to discuss individual needs and sign up for applicable services.

More information from Regions can be accessed here.

Additionally, for questions regarding a mortgage, customers can call Regions  at 1-800-986-2462. For assistance regarding home equity and other consumer loans, dial 1-866-298-1113. The general number of 1-800-411-9393 is available for help with other questions and general banking needs.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

15 hours ago

One of Alabama’s richest men kidnapped in Birmingham home; Suspects arrested

Elton B. Stephens, Jr., the retired CEO of EBSCO Industries, was reportedly kidnapped from his bed last Friday and held for ransom. He is currently safe, and two suspects are in custody.

EBSCO is one of the state’s largest privately held companies, with annual sales of about $3.2 billion as of 2018 counting subsidiaries. Stephens is the son of the company’s late founder. Their family was estimated to have a net worth of $4 billion as of 2014, per Forbes.

Alabama Media Group on Thursday reported that Blount County’s Matthew Amos Burke, 34, and Tabatha Nicole Hodges, 33, have been charged with burglary, kidnapping an adult for ransom, extortion and theft of property.


The pair allegedly broke into a Birmingham home Stephens is renting in the early morning hours of this past Friday. When Stephens awoke that morning, Burke was standing over him, per reports.

Burke and Hodges are alleged to have robbed the house of valuables and three firearms.

They reportedly threatened to kill Stephens if he did not comply with them or if he attempted to call for help.

“They took him to a trailer in St. Clair County where they had him wire $250,000 into their account. They returned him to his home about 4:30 p.m. [on Friday]. Police were called,” Alabama Media Group wrote.

Law enforcement officials declined comment on the pending case. Stephens says he did not previously know the suspects.

Stephens’ attorney released a statement, saying: “Elton Stephens Jr. was kidnapped in a home invasion last Friday. I ask that his privacy be respected by the press and the public to allow him time and space to process and deal with these very traumatizing circumstances.”

“We are thankful and grateful for the hard work of the Birmingham Police Department, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the Secret Service and the U.S. Attorney’s office for their hard work in investigating this horrid life experience for Mr. Stephens,” the attorney concluded.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn