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Songs, laughter and smiles filled the atmosphere at The Cinema as a humorist, award-winning and professional recording artist shared words of empowerment and inspiration to educate women about breast cancer, a leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.

Jane Jenkins Herlong was the featured speaker at the RMC Foundation's 14th annual Pink Ribbon Luncheon on Oct. 16. The former Miss South Carolina, who has authored four books and is also a songwriter, admonished the more than 300 women gathered at the event on how to properly steer "the wheel of womanhood."

"Sometimes you're the windshield and sometimes you're the bug, and you just have to learn how to be good at both," she said, noting that emotional ups and downs are part of life.

"Have you ever lost it all? Have you ever wanted to walk in Walmart and just slap the greeter?" she asked, drawing giggles from the audience.

She said even with an onslaught of various feelings that women go through, good choices must be made, particularly when it comes to their health. She said the performance of self-breast exams and yearly mammograms are all part of wise decision-making.

"I just made my mammogram appointment. Life is full of choices ... choose wisely," she said.

Herlong touted the power of humor and having a great attitude as being key in surviving breast cancer -- traits that she sees in her own sister, who is a survivor.

"When life flips, don't be a flop," said Herlong, whose own sense of humor evolved as a result of being dyslexic and being told that she couldn't do this or that despite going on to become an award-winning author.

The self-described "tomboy" also went on to become Miss South Carolina. And while she didn't win the subsequent Miss America pageant, she said she married the winner's boyfriend.

"All things are possible even when dealing with insurmountable issues. You just can't put a price on a sense of humor to get you through tough times," Herlong said, stressing that prayer, friends, good medical facilities and encouragement are all part of the ingredients to surviving breast cancer.

"For you to get through life, you have to take care of yourself. Don't let anyone lower your stilettos," she said.

She touted the RMC Foundation and its efforts to promote breast cancer awareness, particularly with its Pink Ribbon committee and the annual luncheon.

"The foundation is so wonderful, and the committee is amazing," she said, noting that the words to the song "This Is Me" from the film "The Greatest Showman" were an inspiration to her.

Part of the lyrics include: "Look out 'cause here I come, and I'm marching on to the beat I drum. I'm not scared to be seen, I make no apologies, this is me."

"You go forward when flip-flops happen. We are warriors ...," she said.

Bamberg resident Judy Free was attending her First Pink Ribbon Luncheon.

"I really did enjoy it. I particularly enjoyed the speaker. She was very funny and uplifting," Free said.

Free attended the event with a good friend who is a breast cancer survivor.

"It can happen to anyone, and we all have to stick together and do our best for each other," Free said.

The luncheon, which began in 2005, has raised more than $500,000 since its inception. All proceeds from the RMC Foundation's Pink Ribbon Fund benefit the RMC's Breast Health Center and help cancer patients during treatment and with post-operative needs.

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Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow "Good News with Gleaton" on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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Staff Writer

Dionne Gleaton has been a staff writer with The T&D for 20 years. She has been an education reporter, regional reporter and currently writes features with an emphasis on health.

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