A diagnosis of breast cancer is not a death sentence. This was the message of 12 1/2-year cancer survivor Roxy O'Connor, who spoke to the crowd gathered Monday morning for the annual observance of National Breast Cancer Awareness Day.

A diagnosis of breast cancer is not a death sentence.

This was the message of 12 1/2-year cancer survivor Roxy O'Connor, who spoke to the crowd gathered Monday morning for the annual observance of National Breast Cancer Awareness Day.

O'Connor briefly shared her experience with the group, noting that she had discovered a lump in her breast while doing a self-exam that she had learned on “General Hospital.”

“I'd never really done it before, but I was watching the show and they did a story line on breast cancer,” she said, smiling.

The result of that self-exam was surgery, and subsequent chemotherapy, when O'Connor was only 35 years old.

“When the doctor told me, 'I'm sorry, but you have cancer,' we thought it was a death sentence,” she said.

O'Connor gives much credit to the love and support of her family for helping her through the difficult time.

Although the chemotherapy did not make her sick — as it does for many people — it did cause her to start losing her hair.

“I thought that was much worse,” she said.

Determined not to let it get her down, however, O'Connor said she and her family — which included a 9-year-old and a 5-year-old — made the best of it.

“We went upstairs to the bathroom, and shaved my head. We made it a family affair,” she said.
“My family really helped me stay upbeat.”

She urged women who are currently battling the disease to “not let it beat you.”

Her four suggestions:

- Rely on your friends.

- Pray.

- Take lots of vitamins and herbs.

- Learn all you can about the disease.

"It does not have to be a death sentence,” she said.

Mineral County Commission President Wayne Spiggle, who read to the crowd the proclamation he had signed in regard to National Breast Cancer Awareness Day, also spoke to the crowd as a physician.

“When I was taking my speciality training, there were probably only four or five breast cancer specialists available in the whole state of West Virginia,” he said. “Today, within an hour-and-a-half drive, there are at least a dozen.”

Spiggle said early detection, self-examination and regular clinical examinations have made such a huge difference in the treatment of breast cancer.

“There are currently over 2 million breast cancer survivors living in the United States,” he said.

Indicating his 2-year-old granddaughter playing at his feet, Spiggle added, “Hopefully, it will be even better for her.”

Registered nurse Beverly Chaney also spoke briefly to the group, offering some sobering statistics:

- Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths for women.

- The median age of women with breast cancer is 61.

- Breast cancer is not limited to women: More than 1,700 men in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Spiggle and O'Connor hung the traditional pink wreaths on the courthouse doors, and CEOS members Kim Newcomb and Betty Logsdon closed the program by giving pink carnations to the survivors in the crowd.

Mineral Daily News-Tribune