The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Breast Cancer

October 2, 2013

Cancer-free for 45 years: In a time before modern treatments, family and faith helped her through

— Vera Beegle, 83, has spent more than half of her life as a breast cancer survivor.

She was diagnosed with the disease right before Christmas in 1967.

At the time, considering the state of technology and the advanced stage of her sickness, doctors and others “thought I wasn’t even going to pull through,” as she explained. But, since Beegle underwent a successful mastectomy in January 1968, she has remained free of breast cancer.

“I made a really good recovery, and my family was really a good support,” Beegle said.

She especially remembers the comfort provided by her husband, Jack Beegle.

“My husband, he stayed with me,” said Vera Beegle, a resident of Friends Cove, Bedford County. “I went into shock and they thought I was going to pass away. I got the chills. He stayed with me. He was a big help. He stuck right with me. I cried, and he said, ‘Don’t do that.’ He said, ‘It’s only a breast, and I have you.’ ”

Beegle credits her faith, too, for helping her during the difficult time. Shortly before the procedure, she read several chapters of the Bible and saw Jesus sitting on her bed, which left her “calm as a cucumber” when heading into the operating room.

In the years since her surgery, Beegle has stayed in the same house, located on Main Road, which is filled with decorative plates, dolls and other homey keepsakes collected by her and family members. There is a tribute wall to the late Roberto Clemente, an all-time great Pittsburgh Pirate and humanitarian. A black-and-white photo of Beegle on her motorcycle hangs near the kitchen table.

The great-grandmother often bakes cookies for family and friends.

And she has an affection for collies; her latest of which is named Shetland.

“I just thank God that I was alive (for all these years),” she said.

Beegle has also spent countless hours comforting other breast cancer patients, speaking to many in the days immediately after their own medical procedures.

“Even today yet, people will come to me and they’ll say, ‘You don’t know me, do you?’ I’ll say, ‘No.’ And they’ll say, ‘You visited me when I was in the hospital.’ They’ll say I did so much good for them,” Beegle said.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.

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