Relay's Message Of Hope
Published: July 11th, 2007
By: Jessica Lewis

Relay's message of hope

This weekend’s 11th annual Chenango County Relay for Life is sure to draw many families, as young and old come out to support the cancer awareness walk. But even with the hundreds that are usually in attendance, it would be hard to find three generations of women who’ve had cancer and come through the ordeal stronger than ever.

When Doris Miller was diagnosed with cancer in 1965, she stayed positive, even though she had seen her mother succumb to the same disease, and that she says helped her to achieve the status she has today as a 42-year survivor.

Doris went to her family doctor and explained some of her symptoms. She was rapidly referred to another doctor, who suggested a biopsy, and her uterine cancer was discovered. “There was a mention of radiation therapy, but I was afraid,” Doris remembered. She opted for surgery, and the cancer was removed.

Doris explained that her children were in junior high and high school at the time, and she stayed positive for them.

“They were smart about the whole thing. They both took care of me,” she said of her children and her husband. “The three of them were my support system.”

Doris said there was only one time when she ever let the negative possibilities enter her mind. She and her husband discussed what would happen to the children if the cancer returned.

“That was the only time we talked about it. I just had a feeling that I was going to be all right,” she said. The positive attitude seemed to work for Doris. She began going to the doctor every three months for follow-ups, and eventually there was more time between visits.

Twenty years later, cancer would again strike the family, this time targeting Doris’ daughter, Susan Blackman. Susan had been concerned about a lump she found in her breast, but after undergoing a mammogram she was assured it was just a calcium deposit. Seven months after the exam, Susan was on vacation, and she said things just didn’t feel right.

“I knew something was wrong. It just wasn’t normal,” Susan explained. She decided to go back to the doctor, and after another mammogram and an ultrasound, she was immediately sent to have a biopsy.

“Friday I had the needle biopsy done. They called Saturday to tell me I had cancer. It was all I could do to keep from throwing up,” Susan said. Once the cancer was detected, the doctors moved quickly. The following Thursday a bone scan was performed, and the next day she had a mastectomy. Less than a month later, Susan started a year of chemo-therapy, going 14 days on and then 14 days off.

“I just kept telling Susan she would be all right,” Doris said. “I couldn’t imagine anything happening to one of my girls.”

Susan says she was blessed to have friends in the medical field who helped her during her treatment and through the recovery.

The family was again struck by cancer nearly 17 years later, when Susan’s daughter Julia Whitney was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 31. Like her mother before her, Julia found a lump in her breast and went to the doctor for a mammogram. The mammogram was negative, but Julia said she knew something was wrong. The doctors told her she should wait a month and see what happened, but because of what her mother had gone through, she pushed the issue.

“I wanted to know what was going on. I pushed and they pursued it and found I had an aggressive tumor that was spreading. If I had waited a month, I don’t know what would have happened,” Julia said.

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