Lake Resident Hopes to ‘Conquer Chiari’

Christy Harrelson and granddaughter Indie (submitted)
Christy Harrelson and granddaughter Indie (submitted)

Christy Lewis Harrelson loves Halloween, but last year on Oct. 29, 2021, the Lake Waccamaw resident had brain surgery due to a condition called Chiari Malformation. 

Instead of missing the holiday, she reached out to the public to see if they would celebrate with her a few days ahead of time. 

She was overwhelmed with trick-or-treaters and support, and now she’s asking for Columbus County folks to join her once again for the first ever Conquer Chiari Walk with Christy.  

September is Chiari Awareness Month, and it’s also the month of her initial diagnosis almost a year ago.  

“I was completely overwhelmed with love and support from the entire county when I was diagnosed and even after my surgery. So much so, that I had people I didn’t know reaching out,” said Harrelson.  

Chiari Malformation is a condition in which the lower part of the brain, called the cerebellar tonsil, herniates down through the skull and into the spinal canal. The herniated tissue blocks the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid. 

Instead of moving in an easy pulsating movement through the opening, the fluid begins to force its way through, like a water hammer, pushing the tonsils down even farther. The blockage can cause a buildup of fluid in the spinal cord or in the brain.      

There is no cure for disease, and surgery is needed to stop the progression of symptoms. 

When she went under the knife, Harrelson basically had a large abscess from the bottom of her cerebellum that extended down her spinal cord.   

Bringing awareness 

Since her battle began, Harrelson has done her best to bring awareness about the condition and offer support to others who have been diagnosed. 

She had initially planned to join a Conquer Chiari Walk Across America in another community, but instead she approached Lake Waccamaw Mayor Matt Wilson about using the Elizabeth Brinkley Park walking trail to have an event of her own.  

She was met with enthusiastic support, and Lake commissioners unanimously approved her request to hold the walk.  

Last year, Conquer Chiari was held both live and virtually, involving thousands of participants, and raising $330,000 for research and other patient centered programs. Since its inception in 2008, the event has been held in 244 cities in 47 states and has brought in over $5.8 million in funds.  

“I’m excited for this walk, to hopefully maybe reach one more person who has never heard of Chiari Malformation and get the awareness out there,” Harrelson expressed. 

Harrelson’s event 

With the location set, Harrelson got to work on the final details. 

The Conquer Chiari with Christy Walk will be held on Saturday, Sept. 17, at the park. Registration will open at 9 a.m., and the walk will begin at 11:15 a.m. followed by a light lunch and silent auction.

T-shirts will be provided for pre-registered walkers with a minimum donation of $40. A limited number of shirts will be available for people who register the day of the walk, but sizes will be limited as well.   

Elizabeth Brinkley Park is located at 90 Bald Cypress Circle in Lake Waccamaw. For more information and updates about the event, please visit the Conquer Chiari with Christy Facebook page. 

 A paper registration form will be available the day of the event, but participants can also go online to sign up at