Press-Republican

September 26, 2013

Survivor inspires others

DENISE A. RAYMO
Press-Republican

MALONE — A positive attitude, support from loved ones and lots of walking transformed Cindy Wemette from a breast-cancer victim to an inspirational survivor.

She will be the guest speaker Saturday when Scott Smith’s Towing hosts a breast-cancer fundraising walk through downtown Malone.

It was Thanksgiving night 2012 that Wemette discovered a mass in her left breast that initially tested as benign.

“I knew it wasn’t benign,” she said, and she insisted her doctor redo the test. 

This time, he went deeper into the tissue for a sample to biopsy.

“The mass was so hard, it bent the surgical scissors,” Wemette said.

She had Stage 3 cancer, which spread under her arm and into her lymph nodes.

COMPLICATIONS

Wemette had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery of her breast at the same time, “but it didn’t take,” she said.

“I had the most beautiful breast for one day. But they had to take it all back off.”

Other complications followed the surgery “that were no fault of the doctor’s,” and she was left with golf-ball-size holes across her stomach where sutures were used.

Healing was slow, and her physician encouraged her to eat more protein-rich foods and to walk to reduce the chance of developing blood clots.

Once she began to move, Wemette said, she transformed.

“I went from a size 18 to a size 4-6, I lost 57 pounds the healthy way, and I walk 5 to 10 miles a day.”

One of her late-night therapeutic walks made her husband, Jim, uneasy when it brought her a little too close to a bear.

“I told him, ‘God didn’t go to all the trouble of having me beat cancer so a bear could eat me,’” she said.

‘MY NEMESIS’

Wemette, who is a teaching assistant at Davis Elementary School in Malone, underwent a course of chemotherapy and was determined to stay positive despite the discomfort and the loss of her hair.

“I didn’t want to be one of those people who gave up already. Cancer is my nemesis, and if I didn’t believe I was more powerful than it is, I’d go fast.

“But I am not afraid.”

Her treatments in Burlington brought her to Hope Lodge, a nonprofit organization that provides accommodations to those being seen at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington.

“When they told me they wanted to have a cancer walk in my honor, I said I’d like the money to go to Hope Lodge,” Wemette said. “They are wonderful people. I’d like to see them be the beneficiaries.”  

More than half the families supported through Hope Lodge come from northern New York, she said.

Wemette says she decided early on in her diagnosis that “cancer was not going to get the best of me. I’m turning my life around.

“Before, I’d go to bed and watch TV and eat junk food, and I was headed for a heart attack,” she said. “I’ve worked hard so I can get my life back.”

SILENT AUCTION, T-SHIRTS

A pink tow truck will lead the 5K walk through downtown Malone on Saturday, raising awareness of breast cancer and money to help those who have the disease.

Scott Smith, owner of Scott Smith’s Towing, had it specially painted to increase awareness about breast cancer.

Registration begins at 9 a.m. at Scott Smith’s Towing’s garage on Railroad Street, and the walk begins at 10 a.m.

All money raised will go to the Hope Lodge in Burlington, which offers overnight stays to those who receive outpatient cancer treatment at Fletcher Allen Health Care.

For more information, call Cindy Wemette at 481-7823.

Email Denise A. Raymo:draymo@pressrepublican.com