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Andrea "Andi" Rung

May 01, 2010|By MARLO BARNHART
  • Andrea "Andi" Cramer Rung and her future husband, Walter Rung, pose for this picture taken at Andi's senior prom in the 1960s. Walter proposed to Andi that night
Submitted photo,

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back -- through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others -- at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Andrea "Andi" Rung, who died April 21 at the age of 67. Her obituary was published in the April 23 edition of The Herald-Mail.

In a perfect world, no one should ever have to hear the words that Andi Rung heard back in 1998, when she learned she had breast cancer and was not expected to live out the year.

But Andi turned that death sentence into an 11-year life-affirming journey not only for herself, but for other women who also found the courage to face their own struggles thanks to Andi's help.

"In 2003, we started a new program called 'Moving Forward After Surgery' -- Andi was the first volunteer to meet with these women," said Joan Fell, executive director of Breast Cancer Awareness-Cumberland Valley.

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Describing Andi as a sweet woman, Joan said Andi probably helped hundreds of women in the last six or seven years. She first would meet with them in the offices of their surgeons, usually right after they left the hospital.

It was a breast cancer awareness support group that Andi herself first approached hesitantly after her own initial diagnosis of stage 3 breast cancer in 1998.

"She didn't want to go," Walter Rung, Andi's husband of 45 years, said of the couple's first two visits.

The third visit was at a support group picnic and Andi brought along her new puppy, Jasmine, Walter said. The puppy helped her warm up to the process as well as the people. According to Joan, it marked the beginning of Andi's long relationship with other women sharing her battle with cancer.

Born in Cumberland, Md., Andi grew up there and went to school in Allegany County. After she married Walter in the mid-1960s, they started their family, which included two daughters and two sons.

"Mom was one of the gentlest and sweetest people I ever knew," said Maura Hayes, Andi's oldest daughter. But she pointed out that didn't mean she couldn't get tough when the situation called for it.

"In 1998, we worried she wouldn't have the strength, but she dug in her heels," Maura said of her mother's diagnosis. "Every setback she faced, mom did it with 100 percent of herself."

Through the years, Maura said her mother and her support group friends would get together for tea parties and bonfires.

"Dad called them the campfire girls," she said.

They also were known as Helping Hands.

Maura said she was overwhelmed by the number of those friends and many others who showed up for her mother's viewing.

"We were fortunate to have her as a mother," said Colin Rung, Andi's oldest son. "She will live on in our hearts."

Sean Rung said as the youngest son, he had a special relationship with his mother.

"She encouraged me in so many ways ... in the arts and my writing," Sean said. "She was many things to many people and like a second family to all our friends."

Amanda Sweeney, the youngest of Andi's children, said her lasting memory of her mother will be her artist's eye.

"Mom saw beauty in everything and everyone," Amanda said. "She looked for goodness in people and never thought about herself."

It was that selflessness that Walter and all four children want to see live on through memorial contributions to Breast Cancer Awareness-Cumberland Valley in Andi's name.

Joan said she will miss Andi both as a friend and as a peer support counselor to other women with breast cancer.

Andi's courage and strength didn't escape the attention of her oncologist either.

Dr. Frederic Kass cared for Andi from the time of her first diagnosis in 1998 through her recurrence several years ago.

"She never complained. Instead, she helped others with breast cancer like her," the doctor said. "These women were all dealing with the disease, the treatment and side effects."

When Andi was told her cancer had returned, her Helping Hands got together to give her additional support. They included Diana Barnhart, Judy Brezler, Shary Iobst, Janet Lung and Nancy Younker.

"We got together to decorate the original Helping Hands after a dinner where we traced our hands and decorated them," Janet said.

Janet said Andi's Helping Hands always were there whenever she needed them and will continue to be there for her family.

"The six of us had a special bond, brought together by a breast cancer diagnosis -- a sisterhood none of us asked to join," Janet said.

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