The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Breast Cancer

October 10, 2012

Woman maintained good attitude through her ordeal

JOHNSTOWN — Charlotte Allen of Johnstown has been through a great deal – including multiple surgeries on her back and neck, knee replacements, ovarian cancer as well as breast cancer.

But the 74-year-old wife and great-grandmother has nothing but gratitude in her heart.

“I have not gone one day without praising God,” she said. “I am very, very fortunate. I am very blessed.”

Her ordeal with breast cancer started Dec. 27, 1983, while in Memorial hospital recovering from surgery on her spine.

She discovered a lump in her left breast and mentioned it to her family physician, Dr. Richard Hartnett, who decided she would have a biopsy done before leaving the hospital.

It was a discovery and decision that probably saved her life. The biopsy revealed cancer and, on Dec. 29, Allen had surgery.

She was under the care of Dr. Laura Schrock, who opted for a radical route.

“They wanted to make sure they got it all,” Allen said.

“I felt like a cardboard box because they took everything from the middle of my chest to the middle of my back. They took all the muscles and everything.”

Doctors also took 17 lymph nodes, which were clean.

Allen said the diagnosis of cancer did not surprise her.

“It felt like roots were growing through my breast and down around my side,” she said. “I felt tingling at night.”

She prayed and asked God to allow her to live to raise her youngest son, who was just 12 at the time.

“God just gave me a peace about it,” she said.

Still, Allen had a difficult road ahead.

“I had to learn to use my arm all over again,” she said. “I came home in a neck collar and had no use of my left arm – and I am left handed.”

She had plenty of support from medical professionals, her family and her husband, Ray. Allen, who had been divorced for years, had remarried just seven months before her diagnosis.

“He is a very, very wonderful man,” she said.

Together, the couple now have nine children – four hers and five his; 22 grandchildren; and 17 great-grandchildren, with two more on the way.

“I don’t believe in the word ‘step.’ They are all our kids,” she said.

Her youngest son recently retired after 23 years in the military. He will turn 41 this month.

“Praise God I am still cancer- free and so very blessed,” Allen said.

She is thankful to have been under the care of Hartnett and Schrock, who, after her retirement, placed Allen’s care in the “good hands of Dr. Gerard Gaguilo.”

Allen, who worked at Hills Department Store and at Boscov’s, now volunteers when her health allows and enjoys her family, baking and cooking.

Despite continued back and neck problems, she maintains a positive attitude.

“I have been through a lot and yet I have so much to be thankful for,” she said. “God has had his hand on my life.”

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