Area retreat brings many breast cancer patients together

By JULI WATSON NEIL Staff Writer, Aug 14, 2018 

Jenn Dumoulin (left) and Angela Ratterman stand in front of a butterfly sculpture outside Dollywood's DreamMore Resort and Spa on Aug. 10.

Jenn Dumoulin (left) and Angela Ratterman stand in front of a butterfly sculpture outside Dollywood's DreamMore Resort and Spa on Aug. 10.

PIGEON FORGE -- Of the 35 women who traveled to Pigeon Forge for an event known as Leslie's Week, none of them knew each other - and none of them knew Leslie.

In 2011, Leslie Twohig passed away after being diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Shortly after her death, Leslie's Week was founded as a nonprofit. The organization provides nationwide vacations for women who are stage 4 breast cancer patients, giving them a respite from the medical appointments and daily challenges brought by cancer and its effects.

The weeklong retreats give attendees a break from the well-known adage, "There is no stage 5."

Officials with Leslie's Week selected Dollywood's DreamMore Resort and Spa for an August retreat. In all, 35 women traveled from across the country to be pampered at the resort, visit Dollywood and Splash Country, venture to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and do some shopping.

For Jenn Dumoulin, a Massachusetts native, last week was her first week in Tennessee. She was pleasantly surprised by what she found. "I had heard that there wasn't much to do here," Dumoulin said when asked what - if anything - she had heard about Tennessee as she grew up in Massachusetts. "I pictured it as a farming area."

The mother of three - Dumoulin's children are 11, 12 and 14 years old - arrived at DreamMore with her kids and her parents. By Wednesday, they had already hiked some of the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies. "My kids and I are hiking the trail," Dumoulin said, explaining that they walk portions of the trail when they visit other states. "I absolutely love that I got to bring them."

Dumoulin said she learned of Leslie's Week from a health coordinator at her hospital back home. First diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, Dumoulin went into remission in 2015. By 2017, she was regularly sick to her stomach. One doctor "kind of blew me off," she said. Dumoulin was later diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.

What has life been like since that second diagnosis? "It's absolutely life-changing," Dumoulin said. "There's life before and life after. ... Some of it is good, and some of it is bad. ... It (the cancer) is not going to go away. All you can do is try to find the best in it."

Of Leslie's Week, Dumoulin summed up her feelings in five words: "I don't feel so alone."

One of the other 34 attendees at last week's retreat was Angela Ratterman. The Kentucky resident didn't know any of the women before she arrived, but she knew Dumoulin and many others by week's end.

Ratterman had visited Sevier County previously on trips with her late husband. Like Dumoulin, Ratterman has been living with some level of breast cancer for several years. "I've been battling (cancer) for 12 years, since I was 32," Ratterman said.

Ratterman explained that she first discovered breast cancer around 2007 during a self-check. The cancer spread in 2013 to her lymph nodes, and in 2017 it metastasized to her skull. "You can't push away that pain," Ratterman said of living with stage 4 breast cancer. "You've got to feel."

Members of her family that got to enjoy Leslie's Week with her include sisters and her two sons, who are 16 and 22 years old.

Ratterman focuses on the positive. "I'm keeping my calendar full," she said. "I'm looking forward to doing things with the people I love. The fun things always continue to shine in some way. You can still control things. You can still smile. You can make a difference. You can encourage others."

One of the ways that Ratterman encourages others is by blogging about her journey with breast cancer. "I'm confident people have been and will be touched because of this trip," said Ratterman. "I'm very grateful."

Like Dumoulin and, undoubtedly, many of her fellow retreat participants, Ratterman deals with a variety of situations in her life brought by stage 4 cancer. The Kentucky resident admitted that some days are better than others. "I rock the good days," Ratterman said.

"Our situations aren't beautiful. If you focus on that, you're going to die sooner. I just don't have time for giving up. I don't want to give up yet. I'm still truckin' along."

Information about Leslie's Week is available at or 410-263-5598.

Ratterman's blog on her journey with cancer can be found at

Contact Juli at or on Twitter at @NeilWatsonJ.

union county natives the hollerboys are gaining recognition in country music                                        courtesy amanda meyers-neilson

union county natives the hollerboys are gaining recognition in country music courtesy amanda meyers-neilson

SEPTEMBER 27, 2018

Southern Illinois band The Hollerboys are heating up with win at Josie Awards

Realizing he probably wasn’t going to take home any trophies, Adam Michael Webb decided to just soak in the moment.

Webb was attending the Josie Music Awards earlier this month at the Dollywood Celebrity Theater in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee with his band The Hollerboys and a large entourage.

Josie is an organization that recognizes top independent music talent across all genres and through a complex analytical process picks winners in various categories for its annual award show, which in the past has been held at prestigious Nashville venues like The Gaylord Opryland Resort and Nissan Stadium.

The Hollerboys were nominated in five categories, including Outlaw Country Song of the Year for “Field of Gold,” Video of the Year for “Field of Gold” and Webb had a nod for Vocalist of the Year.

For hours the band sat glued to their seats, watching winners walk to the podium after nominees were announced. They were being shut out. “We thought we might had a chance at some of the minor awards. There were not as many people nominated in those categories, so we were hoping to sneak one in,” Webb says. “As the night went on, we had abandoned hopes of winning anything and were just thankful for being there. We’re this small band from the Southern Illinois backwoods being mentioned in the same breath as bands from all around the world. It was pretty amazing.”

When the major awards started being announced, The Hollerboys were named 2018 Modern Country Group of the Year. “We didn’t think we had a chance,” Webb admits. “We were up against some bands that tour nationally and have been doing this a lot longer than us, but we’ve dedicated countless hours to practicing and logged a bunch of miles traveling to shows. We love what we’re doing and it’s a real honor to win.”

Over the weekend, The Hollerboys played at the 17th Street BBQ Cookoff in Murphysboro. They will appear at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Marquand Pioneer Days in Missouri and at 9 p.m. Oct. 13 will perform at Teddy’s Sports Bar and Grill in Herrin. Webb says the band mixes a dozen original tunes at live performances with covers, ranging from ZZ Top’s “Tush” to “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga.

The Hollerboys were formed in 2013.

Band members include: Larry Webb, bass guitar; Paul Mayberry Jr., lead guitar; Seth Hudson, drums; and Adam Webb, rhythm guitar and lead vocals. Larry is Adam’s father. Mayberry is Adam’s cousin and his family owns Mayberry Music in Jonesboro. The band's name is a result of all members growing up in the Euby Dam area of rural Union County.

Last October, the band released a self-titled album of original material that includes fan favorites “Moonshine Man,” “Mississippi Flyway,” “Stay for one More” and “Field of Gold.”

A gifted songwriter, Webb’s tune “She’s Gonna Win” is being used by Leslie’s Week, a national organization that awards vacations to women suffering from Stage 4 breast cancer. The band will play a Nov. 11 benefit for the group.

“We all grew up in the holler playing music together. It started at the Valley Mission church and just took off,” Webb says. “The church gave us a solid moral background. We know it’s a blessing to be able to play music and we like to use our music to help people anytime we can.”

Webb graduated from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 2011 with a degree in education. He is currently a science and special education teacher at Carbondale Middle School. In June, he will help host a Born to be Rock Stars event in which special education students are given the opportunity to experience fame for a day, including walking down the red carpet and posing for paparazzi.

“I’d like to play music for a living someday,” Webb says. “Right now, I’m using my degree to put food on the table and finance the music side of my career. It’s like having two full-time jobs at the same time.”

Feeling the pressure to keep the loyal fan base supplied with new material, Webb plans to take December and part of January off from gigging to concentrate on writing new songs. Influenced by the modern hard-rocking country sound of artists like Jason Aldean and Eric Church, Webb started writing songs in 2011.

“I try to write real life stuff, rocked up short stories with a great hook,” he says. “Sometimes the ideas just pop in my head or my wife will text me a good line.”

The Hollerboys are collaborating on new single “Silver Bullets” with country rapper Will The Truth, a Texas native living in Alto Pass. The double entendre mixes beer drinking and the Lone Ranger. The tune was recorded a Blue Creek Production in Patton, Missouri.



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