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Cancer, a word our grandparents feared and rightly so

October 28, 2010
By Terri Kelly Barta

Cancer. The word sounds ominous. I remember my grandparents, born after the turn of the 20th Century, talking quietly about the "C" word. Some people back then couldn't even let themselves say the whole word out loud.

When I was growing up in the sixties, I first learned the word "cancer" meant a mysterious disease,which no one seemed to understand, which was killing people. I was a kid so I didn't pay too much attention to the talk.

My grandparents purchased cancer insurance to try and protect themselves from the high cost of the deadly disease. Sadly, my grandpa died from complications of prostate cancer. Today, men live with prostate cancer sometimes for 20 or more years. Surgery, medications, hormone injections, and radiation are some of the ways to fight that particular type of cancer.

When I graduated from college, got married and had a family, only a few people I had ever known had cancer.

Today, it is much different. We all have a few relatives, close friends, and others we know who have cancer.

Both my dad and my father-in-law died of cancer, one with lung cancer and the other with prostate cancer. It was a sad time for us.

Just before moving to Rugby, I lost a friend and co-worker to mesothelioma, a large tumor outside her lung. No, she didn't smoke. Most cases of mesothelioma are caused by exposure to asbestos, according to the experts.

Lori was the most gentle-natured, kind person you ever want to meet. She was our typesetter and did her job well. There isn't anything she wouldn't do to help someone in need. In fact, the hardest thing for her was accepting help from others. Through her challenge to rise above cancer, she learned acceptance in more ways than one.

Lori was a wonderful example of never giving up. When the doctors told her it wouldn't be long, she was busy planning her daughter's graduation party. She didn't die until she got her daughter off to college. She left behind her husband, Dave, her daughter Anne, and her son, Paul, a junior this year.

She went through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation like a trouper. Lori had beautiful long, thick hair. She felt triumphant that though her hair thinned considerably, she did not lose it all. She had started out her cancer journey a bit overweight, but the cancer robbed her of the ability to eat and she was down to 89 lbs. when she died.

I had the privilege of spending some time with her during the last three days of her life. She allowed me to rub her back to relieve the pressure on her skin. I held her hand and told her what a wonderful friend and co-worker she was and how proud we all were of her.

It is in honor of Lori that I ran the guest column in this week's paper. I, too, had seen the status thing on Facebook and was disgusted with it. Instead, I choose to remember the loving friend I had and donate to Relay for Life and other causes that work to find cures for cancer. The battle is being won, one cancer at a time.

Barta is The Tribune's editor.



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