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Breast cancer survivors meet to count blessings

October 09, 1998|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Moving from Chicago to Hagerstown in August 1952 was hectic for Beatrice Carpenter, her husband and daughter.

The couple purchased a house that needed work and spent many late nights turning it into their home.

It was during that period that Carpenter, then 36, awoke one morning to find specks of blood on the front of her nightgown.

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Alarmed, she rushed to check the nightgown she had worn the night before, and found more blood.

The diagnosis of breast cancer was particularly shocking to Carpenter, who previously had undergone surgery to have part of her uterus removed after being diagnosed with cervical cancer.

After years of battle that included treatment, operations and recurrences, Carpenter's breast cancer has been in remission for 16 years.

Carpenter, now 82, said it was her faith in God, her family and herself that got her through it all.

She joined about 130 area breast cancer survivors in counting their blessings during the ninth annual Y-ME of the Cumberland Valley breast cancer survivors party at the Four Points Hotel, on Dual Highway on Thursday.

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"It was such a bad year," said Carpenter looking back on 1952.

"When I left the hospital they told me I should be going out in an iron lung. It attacked my neck, throat and nervous system. It just missed my lungs," she said.

Devastated by the illness, she was left without the ability to speak, use her arms and right leg.

"Being a Christian I turned it over to the Lord," said Carpenter, who eventually regained those functions.

Eighteen-year cancer survivor and party organizer Pauletta Deiterich first felt a lump in her breast a week before Thanksgiving.

Deiterich, who had known she was at risk because her mother died of the disease, said she was fortunate she discovered her cancer at an early stage.

Friends and family helped her through the tough times, she said.

"When I had it there was no support group," she said.

During her battle with cancer, Deiterich remained confident she would be healed.

"I thought I had to have been a pretty naive person to think I would pull through," she said of her triumph.

In recent years, being involved with Y-ME has given her an opportunity to share the story of her ordeal and recovery with others with breast cancer.

"Being here is like being at a family reunion. The people are darling friends. They're just terrific," she said.

Deiterich said the local chapter, with more than 200 members, provides a sympathetic ear and educates the public about breast cancer.

Helen Lee of Hagerstown has been free of breast cancer for nine years.

She discovered a lump in her breast during a regular self-examination, she said.

"I had never felt anything like it before," she said.

After surgery, doctors pronounced her clear of the disease.

Support groups like Y-ME helped her in her time of need, she said.

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