After being diagnosed with cancer, Myrtle Beach acts as sanctuary for W.Va. woman

Kathy Patterson with her kids Jenny and Jamie
Kathy Patterson with her kids Jenny and Jamie Teresa Holley

For Kathy Patterson, it’s a trip of a lifetime.

Patterson, who lives in Huntington, W.Va., was diagnosed with stage four small cell lung cancer in early November. After going through chemotherapy treatments, friends decided to put together a trip to Myrtle Beach, where Patterson will get the chance to reunite with old school friends and spend time with her family.

“I’m very excited about coming,” Patterson said. “I’ve never really been to Myrtle Beach on a vacation. It’s about me and my old-school pals meeting up down there to have fun in the middle of all this madness.”

Patterson left for the beach on Saturday en route to a Surfside Beach hotel, which was possible because of an old friend of Patterson’s, Teresa Holley.

Kathy Patterson Teresa Holley

“I had a vacation certificate and I just said that I’m going to use that and I got them a place to stay down in Surfside,” Holley said. “There happens to be a bird sanctuary there, so that’s the big reason I picked that because she’s a true animal lover.”

On top of that, Holley, now a Myrtle Beach resident, worked with her church group to get donations, and she reached out to businesses to see if they could donate tickets. So far, Holley said that Brookgreen Gardens and The Carolina Opry have donated to her cause.

After posting Patterson’s story on Facebook, Holley said “it’s been shared and shared and shared and shared by, really, 100 people I don’t even know.”

“I talked to her like three times a day because she really can’t believe, one, that I have a vacation I haven’t used, and that I’d use it for her and that anybody else would help,” Holley said. “That anybody would want to help somebody they don’t know.”

But for Patterson, the thing she’s looking forward to the most is the bird sanctuary.

“I am dying to see those birds,” Patterson said. “I love birds. I just appreciate everything. I’ve got the best group of friends that anybody could every ask for. I’m fighting cancer, Teresa’s fighting cancer, we lost one sister due to cancer. She gives me strength just by talking to her. It’s just wonderful.”

The road so far

After her diagnosis, Patterson spent days in the hospital receiving treatments and having tests taken. Holley said that in November, “it was only in [Patterson’s] lungs, and it’s moved that fast.”

The process is well-known by Holley, who was diagnosed with late stage four colon cancer 11 years ago, and was given a year to live. But switching to a different doctor made a world of difference, Holley said.

Now, Holley talks with Patterson daily to help her through her struggles.

Teresa Holley, on the left, with Kathy Peterson. Teresa Holley

“You need emotional and mental support through all this,” Holley said. “Because you’re doing big adjustments in your life. At some point you have to look at it and say, yes, I’m sick. You have to use your energy for what counts and we have to make our days count. The days are precious and so is the time you’re spending with people.”

Patterson will be in the Myrtle Beach area from Jan. 21 through Jan. 27.

“We’ve stayed close, close friends and I’m just wanting to make a real special trip for her while she’s here,” Holley said. “The weather is going to break by Sunday and be nice for the week. She cried last night and said ‘I can’t believe this is real, that somebody would want to do somehihng like this for me.’ ”

Megan Tomasic: 843-626-0343, @MeganTomasic