Meadville Tribune

Our Health

October 23, 2013

BREAST CANCER AWARENESS: Local survivor stories — Alma Shafer

BLOOMING VALLEY — Cancer, that foreboding word, that dreaded disease.

My name is Alma Shafer, and my husband and I and two youngest sons live close to Blooming Valley. We have nine children and five grandchildren.

Four months ago I discovered a lump on my one breast even though I was not doing a self-exam. Was it coincidence, or was it God’s hand on mine that led me to what I needed to find?

Days later in Dr. Jodi Maxfield’s office, I sensed her concern as she asked questions and examined me. She would order a mammogram and an ultrasound and find out what was going on. My own fears escalated at the seeming urgency when they handed me papers and told me to take them on over to the hospital. I had a mammogram last year, and was not planning to have another one for a couple of years. I’m sobered by the thought of how my story could read if God had not intervened.

Following the ultrasound, the nurse left the room to speak with the radiologist. She was soon back and with her was Dr. Frederic McDermott. His presence combined with the seriousness about him further convinced me that not all was well. He needed to do a biopsy … right now. I lay there barely able to wrap my mind and emotions around all that was happening. I had tried to prepare myself for what now seemed evident. That word that we don’t want to say. We could wait up to five days to know for sure. I left the hospital feeling weak and shaken.

Even though my husband and children were waiting for a report from my doctor visit, they were shocked by what I had to tell them. It was a sobering time for all of us. But we also knew that God would give strength and grace for whatever was ahead.

The report came back in record time. Dr. Martin Decker, our family physician called to inform me that, yes, it was malignant. They wanted to do an MRI, which revealed another area, and yet another biopsy had to be done. The prognosis was now a mastectomy for sure.

An appointment was promptly set up with a surgeon. We were in Dr. Christopher Weibel’s office on a Friday morning to discuss the details of the surgery. When they told us they can do it Monday morning, we almost couldn’t believe it. We felt we were on a roller-coaster ride and could hardly keep up with it all.

The surgery was June 24th and they told us everything went well. I was able to come home the next afternoon. I needed those few weeks following to process everything. Even though I knew what was done it didn’t prepare me for those extremely difficult moments when reality set in. I needed time to heal and time to adjust. I had family and friends surrounding me with much kindness. People brought flowers, food, cards and helping hands for what I could not do. God felt so present, comforting me, and giving me His peace.

In late July we met with our oncologist, Dr. Zulfiqar Hussain. There we learned more about the type of cancer we were dealing with, what stage it was, how aggressive, etc. We discussed what the treatment plan would be. Thankfully, the lymph nodes were all clear. The doctor ordered a special test which determined I would not need to go through chemotherapy. I would need hormonal therapy, but first we needed to know if radiation was necessary. He arranged an appointment with Dr. Annaliisa McGlinn and she informed us well of what we needed to know. She encouraged us to take time to think it over, pray about it and get back to her with our decision.

Meanwhile, I have been getting physical therapy at the Grove Street hospital for the discomfort of tight muscles and swelling from the lymph edema. Maggie McMunigle is a wonderful therapist and under her care I have regained a lot of motion with my arm. Diane Breiding will help more with the lymph edema issue when the radiation is done.

My radiation treatments started Sept. 3 and are done five days a week. I am on the homestretch now with 25 behind me and eight more to go. I’m getting a little sore and a little weary, but I agree with my caregivers that I can make it! Dr. McGlinn and her team are great. Katie King, Kristy West, Amy and Jennifer Doddo are the girls who work with me regularly. I miss Sue Kilburn on the days I don’t see her. Cindy, the patient after me, is usually waiting when I get there and I feel a kinship with her, too.

The Yolanda Barco Oncology Center is a lovely place. So spacious, bright, and cheery inside and out. Beautiful wall hangings, poetry, verses, and words of faith, hope, courage, joy and peace are everywhere!

The outdoor gardens, with benches along the walkway, a waterfall, and a fountain make a very therapeutic place for one to rest and relax. Along with the people there, the whole atmosphere is one of comfort and caring. I feel so blessed by all the help and encouragement I have received from this place.

My cancer story is being written and God is the writer. I can only tell you where he has taken me up until now. I conclude at this point with these borrowed words: “He gives me grace to persevere, new courage to go on, his love dispels the cloud of fear, and fills my heart with song.”



Text Only
Our Health
  • Don't let a desk job negatively impact your health

    If you’re female, you might want to consider a more physically active career to avoid a variety of cancers.

    July 21, 2014

  • Study focuses on cancer in those who apply pesticides

    This year marks the end of the Agricultural Health Study, a 20-year study of the effects of pesticides on farm workers and their families. Although the study focused on Iowa and North Carolina, there are still some elements that are important for Pennsylvania farmers as well as anyone who handles chemical compounds.

    June 30, 2014

  • Learn to swim and keep drowning at bay

    When you and your family hit the pool or the beach this summer, you need to be aware of a phenomenon known as secondary drowning, or dry drowning.

    June 16, 2014

  • ‘Planting’ the seeds of a better diet this summer

    Summertime is a great time to make improvements to your diet and lifestyle. Despite the conflicting “advice” you may get about diet when reading the popular press (not to mention all of the “food rules”), adding more plants to your diet is always a good idea.

    June 9, 2014

  • Is the idea of drinkable sunscreen worth swallowing?

    Tired of greasy, sticky hands after applying sunscreen? Even the spray-on sunscreens leave you inhaling fumes that you shouldn’t breathe. Well, enter a new era of skincare products: drinkable sunscreen.

    June 3, 2014

  • Survivor stories: Beating cancer with faith and family love

    I recently talked with Rebecca Arbuckle of Meadville to discuss her journey with breast cancer and how she was able to beat it with faith, strength and the love of her family. Although our conversation was upbeat and filled with confidence, there were times that emotion broke through, as it should, for having faced such a battle and won. I am in awe of the people I have had the chance to interview and am honored to share their stories.

    May 27, 2014

  • Uncovering the simple fix to the 'super bug'

    The World Health Organization has identified a serious threat to human health around the globe. Known as a “superbug,” this antimicrobial resistant bacterial infection has been coined “AMR” (Antimicrobial Resistance).

    May 19, 2014

  • Get educated about high blood pressure and eating better

    May is High Blood Pressure Education Month, and one in three Americans have it. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a leading risk factor for stroke. Hypertension is often referred to as the “silent killer” since you may feel no apparent symptoms. Yet, high blood pressure will cause damage to the blood vessels, brain and heart over time.

    May 13, 2014

  • Researchers: colon cleansing health benefits a myth

    Researchers have found that while colon cleansing has been around since ancient times, the health benefits are basically a myth.

    May 5, 2014

  • Prescription for Medical Nutrition Therapy

    Nutrition is a vital part of being well, and an even more important part to getting well (or healing). It’s a critical part of prevention, yet if I surveyed physicians or lay people, and asked them “Does diet therapy work?” chances are at least 70 percent of them would say “No.”

    April 21, 2014

Business Marquee
AP Video
Raw: Japanese Soldiers Storm Beach in Exercises Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast New Sanctions on Key Sectors of Russian Economy Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando US Ready to Slap New Sanctions on Russia Kerry: Not Worried About Israeli Criticism Boater Rescued From Edge of Kentucky Dam Girl Struck by Plane on Florida Beach Dies Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre House to Vote on Slimmed-down Bill for Border Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide