• Jane Bayless and Kelleen Allen try fly fishing on Lake Nottely during the Knotty Girl retreat over the Labor Day weekend.
    Jane Bayless and Kelleen Allen try fly fishing on Lake Nottely during the Knotty Girl retreat over the Labor Day weekend.
  • “It was exhilarating,” said Teresa Vicker after her first time ziplining. She (third from right) visited Wildwater River Ocoee River Basin Canopy Tours with other breast cancer survivors on the Knotty Girl retreat over Labor Day weekend.
    “It was exhilarating,” said Teresa Vicker after her first time ziplining. She (third from right) visited Wildwater River Ocoee River Basin Canopy Tours with other breast cancer survivors on the Knotty Girl retreat over Labor Day weekend.

SCOUTING AROUND: Knotty Girl brings survivors to mountain retreat

   Teresa Vicker had just finished tanning and was getting dressed when she noticed a lump that wasn’t there minutes before protruding from her chest. She contacted her doctor, and in one day had a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy. The protrusion was caused by the fast-moving cancer pushing her muscle outward.
    “I was very fortunate it did what it did,” she said. “They treated me aggressively, and I’m here today.”
    Both her grandmother and great grandmother died as a result of breast cancer. However, they were much older when they were diagnosed – Vicker was only 41 years old and had two sons, who were 10 and 17 at the time.
    She had radiation treatments and got breast reconstruction surgery. Through it all, Vicker said she had great support from her husband and sons.
    Today, Vicker is a 16-year survivor. Every blood test since has been “clean.”
    Every survivor suffers from breast cancer differently and has a story to share. That’s one reason why each year during Labor Day weekend, Knotty Girl, based in central Florida, brings survivors like Vicker to Murphy for a retreat.
    Between ziplining at Wildwater River Ocoee River Basin Canopy Tours, shopping downtown, fly fishing at Lake Nottely and hiking to DeSoto Falls, the ladies tell their stories and bond with each other.
    “There’s support groups, but this is different,” Knotty Girl founder Diana Albritton said.
    The environment of the mountains also is soothing, allowing the ladies to return home refreshed each year.
    “It’s wonderful,” Vicker said. “For me to get away and do this, I feel loved.”
    Breast cancer survivors on the retreat this year included Vicker, Kelleen Allen, Bobbie Christopher, Jane Bayless, Corine Fahlsing and Debbie Mayer.
    Yvette MacQueen of Altamonte Springs, Fla., was one of the survivors on the trip last year, but this year she went as a volunteer staff member to give back to Albritton. She helped with meals, cleaning, driving
and keeping everyone on schedule. She is one of three staff members – besides Albritton – on the trip this year.
    “Diana is wonderful,” MacQueen said. “I’m here to do what I can to make this a success.”
    Albritton lives in Sebring, Fla., but owns a vacation home in the Murphy area.
It was on one of her trips
to Murphy that she first developed the idea for Knotty Girl to educate both women and men about how to feel for the knot-like lump of cancer.
    She first brought survivors for a retreat to her second home in 2016. Albritton continues to bring the retreat here because of the support the people and businesses of Murphy give them.
    In fact, downtown small businesses like Marketplace Antiques, The Daily Grind & Wine, Parson’s Pub, ShoeBooties Cafe, Serenity Mountain Gift Shop and Valley River Brewery are among the many sponsors for this year’s retreat. Albritton said she tells the survivors something each year before they visit downtown Murphy and explore in their bright pick shirts.
    “I tell them, ‘They don’t know you, but they love you,’ “ she said.
    For details about Knotty Girl, visit knottygirl.org.

New baby supplies needed
    Last year, Pregnancy & Parenting Centers in Andrews and Murphy helped more than 120 women. On Thursday, the organization is looking for help from the community during its Lovin’ Life Donation Drive.
    From 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Abundant Life Church and volunteers will be at the Pregnancy & Parenting Center, 128 Tennessee St. in Murphy, to collect new baby sleepers, swaddlers, baby cribs, changing mats, diaper bags, baby strollers, infant floor seats, pacifiers, baby clothes, maternity clothes, bottles, baby bathtubs, baby towels and washcloths, baby bath products, high chairs and diaper caddies. They also will be accepting monetary donations and selling T-shirts.
    While this is the fourth Lovin’ Life event, it is the first time it has been just a donation drive. Rachel Gates of Abundant Life said the center gives the baby items to women in exchange for points they earn through the program at the center.
    “They are not an enabling program,” she said. “It’s a great program.”
    Gates said the center still needs a lot of monetary donations to make its goal of $10,000. Funds raised help pay for the center’s costs, including rent and utilities.
    In coordination with the event, Murphy Mayor Rick Ramsey plans to be at the center at 1 p.m. Thursday to declare the day “Pregnancy and Parenting Awareness Day.”
    The Pregnancy & Parenting Center is a faith-based ministry of the church that works to help all women in need during normal or crisis pregnancies. It offers pregnancy tests, adoption information, supplies and counseling.
    Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email, scoutingaround@cherokeescout.com; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message in the office at 837-5122.