If you were to encounter Jo Singleton on any given day, you’d most likely be met with a bright smile and warm personality. Her warmth exudes not just to her friends and family, but in her career as a nurse. Born in the Lowcountry, Jo’s life has taken her elsewhere but she returned to the Charleston area in 2002 and has remained here with her family ever since.
What you wouldn’t know from first meeting Jo is that she has suffered a loss that no mother should ever have to experience…the loss of her sweet daughter Kyla to brain cancer in late 2021 at the young age of 25. Jo has taken this terrible loss and turned it into a way to raise awareness about brain cancer, all through telling Kyla’s powerful story. I’m honored to call this brave woman my friend, and hope that you find her as inspirational as I do.
Moms to See in the 843: Jo Singleton
I’ve only known Kyla through stories and pictures. I’d love for you to tell us more about the kind of person that Kyla was.
Kyla was an amazingly fierce woman. Have you ever been around someone that lights up the entire room? That was Kyla. She was strong-minded, caring, accepting of others despite differences, and beautiful inside and out. She completed her Political Science degree at the College of Charleston while she was going through treatment for brain cancer. She wanted to become a Civil Rights Attorney and make a difference in the social injustices of the world. She was really funny, also. She and her brother had a thousand inside jokes and she was always doing something to make us laugh.
Through your loss of Kyla, you’ve been working on creating the Be Like Kyla non-profit organization. Can you tell us more about this and what your hopes are for the organization?
The Be Like Kyla non-profit organization is in the inception stage currently. My hopes are to grow an organization that helps patients and caregivers locally after diagnosis with support, whether that be through emotional support, financial support, or diagnosis/clinical trial information. When we were going through Kyla’s brain cancer journey, I often felt isolated and alone and I don’t want others to feel this.
Where do you see Be Like Kyla five years from now?
In five years, I want for Be Like Kyla to be in a central location to best serve our community and I would like to see support services in place for patients and caregivers. This could be through support groups, counseling services, meditation/prayer rooms, educational sessions, yoga sessions, or rooms to just hang out and relax. I want Be Like Kyla to be a place where patients and caregivers can turn to for whatever they may need at that time. I want it to be a place they know they can come and be accepted and supported.
You’ve been involved with the Head for the Cure organization to help raise money for brain cancer research. How can the Charleston community help in this fight?
I am very proud to be an Ambassador with the Head for the Cure organization and to share Kyla’s story to bring more awareness about brain cancer. The Charleston community can help in this fight by participating in the 7th annual Head for the Cure 5K Charleston (Join Team Kyla!) and asking others to participate, donate funds, and/or attend fundraising events for brain cancer research. Advocating with local and national leaders for federal funding and passage of public policies that influence cancer research is also such an important piece of the work that needs to be done.
What are some other ways that you’re helping to raise money and awareness for brain cancer research?
The Team Kyla events for the Head for the Cure 5k are our largest fundraisers. We are also hosting our 2nd Annual Oyster Roast and Silent Auction on February 4th at The Inn at Middleton Place. We’ll have all-you-can-eat oysters, a cash bar, live and silent auction items, and numerous raffles. All proceeds will go to the Head for the Cure organization for brain cancer research. For my birthday last August, I posted a Facebook fundraiser which raised $3000.
In addition to fundraising, I am a huge advocate for awareness of this deadly disease and the need for a cure. In May 2022, I participated in the Head to the Hill advocacy event through the National Brain Tumor Society. Through this event, I was able to speak to representatives with Senator Lindsay Graham and Senator Tim Scott, along with local House of Representatives members. I urged them to pass policies that support federal funding and research for brain cancer.
In September 2022, I participated in some in-district meetings, again with the National Brain Tumor Society, and urged Congressional members to pass the Childhood Cancer STAR Reauthorization Act, which was passed and fully funded. I intend to continue these advocacy efforts with the National Brain Tumor Society again this year. I strongly feel that in order to find a cure for brain cancer, federal funding for research is instrumental. On a local level, I was invited to speak at a press conference hosted by Mayor Tecklenburg to promote the Head for the Cure events in 2022 and 2023. I shared Kyla’s story along with what the Head for the Cure means to me.
If someone reading this is dealing with a family member that has been diagnosed with brain cancer, what do you think would be helpful for them to know?
I think it is important to know that you are not alone. There are an estimated 700,000 Americans living with a primary brain tumor. Also, there are organizations that can help with education and guidance on your next steps after receiving a diagnosis. The National Brain Tumor Society and Head for the Cure are two great resources with a lot of information, along with patient and caregiver support.
Living in Charleston, we are very lucky to have the Medical University of South Carolina right here in our backyard. Neuro-oncologists and Neurosurgeons here are doing great things. MUSC is part of a network of hospitals across the country called the Brain Tumor Trials Collaborative. These hospitals are working together on clinical trials and best patient practices to advance treatments and research for brain cancer.
What do you want people to remember the most about Kyla?
I would like people to remember who Kyla was as a person. She was loving, accepting, funny, strong, and courageous, not just the disease that took her. I want people to think of the way she lived her life – accepting others for who they are and loving them although they may have been different from her. She was and is an inspiration to me and so many others through her perspectives on the world. She gave me a bracelet with an inscription that says “The best within you is the best within me”. I think these are words that we all can live by as we each make others better by sharing our true selves with one another.
This interview with Jo Singleton was truly informative and inspirational. What Jo has been through is every mom’s worst nightmare, but she is taking her pain and turning it into a reason to help others. Charleston Moms, let’s do our part in helping to raise awareness about brain cancer. Here are some ways you can help:
- Donate to Head for the Cure.
- Attend the 2nd Annual Oyster Roast & Silent Auction, buy tickets here.
- Join Team Kyla and walk/run at the 7th annual Head for the Cure 5k-Charleston on February 25th.
- Follow along on the Team Kyla Facebook group for all updates and things to come!