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Beavers candid about breast cancer, chemo
Jun 04, 2004 12:00 am
On the phone her familiar voice is unchanged, explaining each position point by point, quickly clarifying details, sounding for all the world as if she's discussing yet another piece of legislation pending before the State Senate.
But the softly spoken words of State Sen. Mae Beavers were addressing a far weightier issue than the campaigns, politics and legislation that have marked her career so far.
Instead, Beavers was candidly and easily discussing a topic that for some can be difficult – her own bout with breast cancer, which has forced her to undergo a chemotherapy regimen that should end this month.
"I'm doing fine," the state senator said when contacted at her Mt. Juliet home Wednesday. "Right now the hardest thing is just going through the normal side effects of the chemo."
Though her illness has kept Beavers moving at a far slower pace than the one which swept her into the State Senate on her first try nearly two years ago, the lawmaker has vowed it will not end her political career.
"I'm about ready to start getting back out and seeing people," she said, noting the countless cards and calls of support from throughout her four-county senatorial district since news of her illness spread earlier this year. "I've heard from so many good folks who have called to check on me. It's just been unbelievable."
When discussing her illness, Beavers uses the same matter of fact approach that has endeared her to many constituents, first as a county commissioner, then later as a state representative and state senator.
"We all have things that come up in life that challenge us, and that's just the way I've tried to look at this. I've always looked at it as, 'OK, first I have to do this, then I have to do that,' pretty much the same way I would anything else. It's just something I have to get through," she said. "I just try to look at this as a bump in the road. We've all had difficulties in our lives that we've had to deal with, and this has turned out to be one of mine."
Beavers said she plans to be an advocate for those at risk from the disease and "will be preaching a lot, I'm sure" about the importance of self-examination for women in high risk groups.
She has also learned about the emotional pitfalls that come from being locked in a fight with a potentially deadly disease, particularly the impact it can have on a patient's loved ones.
"Sometimes I think it's harder on the family than on the patient," she remarked. "But they've been so helpful, just taking care of me, just doing what they can to help me get through this."
In a sadly ironic twist, Beavers learned her first grandchild was on its way on the day after her cancer was diagnosed. With the child's birth fast approaching, spending time with her family will be the summer's top priority for Beavers as she continues to recuperate, she said.
"The timing really made the news bittersweet for my son," Beavers remarked. "But now we're expecting a new little boy, and we're all excited."
Beavers agreed with something discovered by scores of other cancer survivors – it can have a profound emotional impact on many patients for years afterward.
"I think it can't help but change your perspective on life. I think it would change anybody's perspective," she said.
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.