The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

October 26, 2013

Seasoned survivor: Brownstown woman successfully battled breast cancer decades ago

JOHNSTOWN — Breast cancer month has significant meaning to 76-year-old Lavonne Adams of Brownstown Borough.

This month marks her 40th anniversary of being cancer free following a mastectomy in 1973.

The first indication of a problem occurred when she told her gynecologist that she had a soreness in her breast and suspected something was wrong.

At the time, considering the state of technology and the unknown stage of her illness, doctors took a wait-and-see attitude.

“I was told that cancer usually doesn’t hurt, but they would keep an eye on things,” Adams said.

At age 36, she had to undergo a partial hysterectomy at Memorial Medical Center when her surgeon, the late Dr. William Yates, took a biopsy of her breast.

The results came back positive for breast cancer.

As her husband, Len, stood vigil in the waiting area, he was approached by Yates, still in his scrubs, and told of his wife’s plight.

“He asked Len to make the decision about the mastectomy and taking my lymph nodes,” Adams said.

Her husband’s response was simple:

“Whatever you need to do to save my wife’s life, do it.”

“That was 40 years ago and I still have my cupcake,” he said.

When Lavonne awoke from the surgery, she wasn’t surprised at the loss of her breast.

“I was told prior to surgery that it may be an option,” she said. “I know it was a hard decision for my husband to make.”

Following surgery, Lavonne did some therapy, but never was told about reconstructive surgery. She did not require any radiation or chemotherapy, because her doctor said the cancer was diagnosed early enough that it didn’t spread.

She made a good recovery, but not without a lot of help.

She had five children at the time, ranging in age from 3 to 16.

“When I got home, I couldn’t raise my arm high enough to comb my little girl’s hair,” she said. “Even with therapy, I couldn’t raise my arm above my head for months.”

Her husband and older children were a big help by doing the cleaning and maintaining the house.

“Len can’t cook, but he did the best he could,” she said. “My neighbors in Brownstown prepared meals and brought them to the house.”

But Lavonne wanted to make one thing clear by saying that her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ sustained her and her family through the ordeal.

“The Bible says that by Jesus’ stripes we are healed,” she said, referring to Christ’s sacrifice.

Lavonne can’t explain why she contracted the disease.

“There has never been a case of breast cancer in any of the women in my family, from my great aunts to my daughters,” she said. “My mother lived to be 90.”

Lavonne is thankful for the time God has given her to see the birth of 12 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Lavonne supports breast cancer research and at times she has gone door-to-door to support the effort.

When time permits, Lavonne volunteers at the Arcadia Theater in Windber.

She does advocate regular checkups to ensure early detection.

“My daughters are all grown and get mammograms regularly,” Lavonne said. “If my story helps one person to be tested and saved that person’s life, then I’m glad to share it.”

Tom Lavis covers Features for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on LavisTD.


Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • smothers ‘It breaks my heart’: Shooting victim’s death leaves trail of shattered lives

    Victoria Smothers knows what people thought when they heard that a young black male had been shot to death in Moxham last week.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • School violence studied

    On a typical day last year, Pennsylvania schools caught 11 students toting weapons similar to ones used to slash 21 students and a security guard at a Pittsburgh-area high school, according to the state Department of Education. An untold number of others likely brought weapons to school but weren’t caught, safety experts say.

    April 16, 2014

  • Home is Where The Tribune-Democrat is Delivered!

    April 16, 2014

  • egg hunt17 ACRP quietly notes 25th anniversary

    There will be little or no fanfare accompanying Alternative Community Resource Program’s 25th anniversary.
    And that’s how the executive director, Frank Janakovic, wants it.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • windber17 Windber students earn top ‘Overchiever’ rank

    Windber Area school’s PSSA scores have been tops in the region for the past several years.
    This year, they’re among the head of the class statewide, Pittsburgh Business Times annual Schools Guide shows.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wise, Charles Police charge bank robbery suspect

    A Johnstown man was jailed on $250,000 bond after police said he robbed the West End Branch of AmeriServ Financial. Charles Wise, 48, of Barron Avenue, was charged with two counts of robbery.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Inmate awaits sentencing for assault on guard

    A former inmate faces up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced for assaulting a corrections officer at State Correctional Institution-Somerset, authorities said.

    April 16, 2014

  • windber pool Pool stays afloat despite troubles

    When a valve broke at the Windber Recreation Park pool last month, its municipal authority caretakers feared that meant the end for the pool’s aged, much-patched liner.
    But the old liner has held up – a stroke of luck that will save Windber Municipal Authority from having to seek a line of credit to cover repairs or risk delaying the pool opening, the authority’s recreation director, C.W. Beckley, said.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Creativity blossoming for spring art show

    The 16th annual Art in Bloom spring art show will brighten the Cambria County Courthouse in Ebensburg from noon to 6 p.m. April 26 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 27.

    April 16, 2014

  • Alcatraz Challenge offers escape from routine

    Greater Johnstown Community YMCA is gearing up for its indoor biathlon, the Alcatraz Challenge.

    April 16, 2014


Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads