The tight-knit community of Engelhard, North Carolina, knows all too well the trials of adversity. Just a few short years ago, in 2020, tragedy struck when the fishing boat "Papa's Girl" tragically capsized off the coast of Engelhard. The incident claimed the lives of three crewmembers, including Samantha Douglas's fiancé, Keyron "Breezy" Davis, and her father, Sammy Douglas. In response, the entire coastal community rallied around the grieving families, offering unwavering support and solidarity.

Breezy, Samantha's fiancé, left behind two beautiful young children, Lexi, and Brayden, compounding the family's tragedy and challenges. Samantha now carries the weight of her children's future, determined to give them the love and support they need to thrive.

Despite their tender years, Samantha's children, Lexi and Brayden, have remarkably supported their mother throughout her battle against advanced stage 3 cervical cancer. Notably, Brayden, a standout student excelling with all A’s in school, has emerged as a pillar of strength, boldly declaring, "Cancer picked the wrong mama." Though young and unable to fully comprehend the gravity of the situation, Lexi remains a constant source of love and joy for Samantha, providing a glimmer of hope amid the darkness of her cancer battle.

Today, the community's compassion and spirit of unity are called upon once more as Samantha Douglas and her family confront a formidable adversary – advanced stage 3 cervical cancer. Her cancer treatment journey began in April 2023, marked by chemotherapy and radiation's physical and emotional challenges. By the end of May, she had completed this grueling phase, only to receive heartbreaking news on September 7th – the cancer had metastasized to her abdomen and neck.

Samantha's battle against cancer is a relentless struggle involving radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy, spanning 5 to 8 grueling weeks with around 50 treatment sessions. She must also contend with specialized care for her neck. Adding to the complexity, Samantha temporarily resides at the American Cancer Society McConnell-Raab Hope Lodge in Greenville, two hours from her Engelhard home, during the week, returning home only on weekends. Abnormal test results necessitate consultations with a cardiologist as part of her health journey.

The American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge program, established in 1970, offers a comforting home away from home for cancer patients and their caregivers. Each Hope Lodge community provides private guest rooms, fully equipped kitchens, gathering areas, dining rooms, free laundry facilities, outdoor spaces, libraries, and invaluable volunteer support. To qualify for a stay, patients must actively receive cancer treatment and live more than 40 miles from their treatment center. For Samantha, The American Cancer Society McConnell-Raab Hope Lodge in Greenville, which opened in 2002, proves a vital resource, conveniently located just two hours from her home. This facility exemplifies the strength of compassion and community when confronting life's most significant challenges.

Cancer is Hyde County's leading cause of death, with a death rate approximately 38.6% higher than North Carolina's average. This stark data underscores the pressing need to address cancer's prevalence and support individuals like Samantha facing significant adversity. By contributing to Samantha's battle, readers can directly address this urgent health concern in Hyde County. Hyde County, at 1,424 square miles, houses just over 5,000 residents, resulting in limited healthcare facilities. Many must travel long distances for medical care, with the nearest hospital, Vidant Beaufort Hospital, 30 to 40 miles from the county center. Specialized cancer care often requires even longer journeys, further complicating access to treatment.

The county grapples with persistent poverty, affecting all aspects of residents' lives. Around 27% of Hyde County's population lives below the federal poverty, leading to daily socioeconomic hardships beyond financial struggles. Educational disparities worsen these challenges, with nearly a quarter of adults lacking a high school diploma or equivalent qualification. Limited access to quality education restricts economic opportunities and hampers health literacy, making cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment more difficult.

These challenges compound each other, leading to delayed cancer diagnoses and advanced-stage cases. Research supports the idea that poverty increases vulnerability to cancer and other health issues. A study led by Jennifer L. Moss and her colleagues, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, examines the link between persistent poverty and county-level cancer mortality rates. Persistent poverty is defined as a county with 20 percent or more poverty rates in U.S. Census data from 1980, 1990, and 2000—Hyde County falls into this category. These counties typically have lower educational attainment and higher unemployment, contributing to more significant health vulnerabilities, including cancer. In Hyde County, where poverty rates are significant, and healthcare access is constrained due to its vast geographical expanse, these findings are particularly relevant and emphasize the need to address these challenges.

Contributions can immediately impact Samantha's battle against cancer and secure a brighter future for Lexi and Brayden. Together, we can ensure that Lexi and Brayden have the opportunity to grow and thrive in the loving and resilient community of Engelhard. To support Samantha and her children during this challenging period, please visit Samanth’s GoFundMe.

Together, we can ensure that Lexi and Brayden can grow and thrive in the loving and resilient community of Engelhard.

For more information, please get in touch with Nina Gibbs at [email protected]

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