The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

October 4, 2012

For survivor, family serves as a motivator

Julie Benamati
For The Tribune-Democrat

WINDBER — Theresa Will, 80, has been living life to the fullest since being diagnosed with breast cancer 26 years ago.

“There is life after cancer,” Will said on a break from cleaning her bird baths in her Amanda Street home. “And I’ve had a wonderful life.”

At the age of 54, Will was diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes.

She underwent a mastectomy at what was then Windber Hospital, followed by more than nine years of taking an oral medication that, at the time, wasn’t even approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

“I was very upset (about the diagnosis) because at the time, we didn’t have any grandchildren yet,” Will said. “I still had more living to do.

“Back then, they didn’t even talk about cancer much,” Will recalled. “Don’t think I didn’t cry for a year, because I did.”

But after that, Will decided there was enough sorrow.

She needed to “give it up” and move on.

“I have five grandchildren now, and I try to stay positive all the time,” she said.

She said her husband, Robert, was extremely supportive and caring during her illness and now she is returning the deed, as he is battling lymphoma. She said he is doing well after his second round of chemotherapy treatment. They will celebrate 60 years of marriage on Dec. 6.

Will also had support from a neighbor who battled breast cancer five years earlier.

“We have laughed and cried together for years,” Will said.

Will said that women in a similar situation should focus on all of the advances that have surfaced since her diagnosis nearly three decades ago. She is living proof that breast cancer can be successfully treated.

“Things were so different,” Will said. “Now, there are so many more drugs and techniques.”

Will also advises women facing breast cancer to take a strong hold in their faith.

“My faith was a big thing, because God knows me so well,” she said. “I test Him a lot. Everyone always says God loves you, and I found out that He really did.”

Will said she has spent her retirement years spending quality time with her husband, sons and grandchildren, along with volunteering at Calvary United Methodist Church.

She predicts that she still has many years of living, pointing to her parents, who lived until their late 90s.

“My ordeal with breast cancer has helped make me who I am today,” Will said.

“I am more spiritual. And I tell everyone that there is life after cancer.”

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