Categories
News Tyrone Daily Herald Archives

Getting to Know: Roberta Woomer, 2008 Northern Blair Relay for Life Ambassador

This year’s Northern Blair Relay for Life Event will be held in Bellwood on June 20 – 21. Local educator Roberta Woomer has a remarkable tale of survivorship and has been selected as Ambassador of this special weekend.
Its website, www.relayforlife.org, defines the purpose as: “Relay For Life, the American Cancer Society’s signature event, is a fun-filled overnight experience designed to bring together those who have been touched by cancer. At Relay, people from within the community gather to celebrate survivors, remember those lost to cancer, and to fight back against this disease. Relay participants help raise money and awareness to support the American Cancer Society in its lifesaving mission to eliminate cancer as a major health issue. During Relay For Life events, teams of people gather at schools, fairgrounds, or parks and take turns walking or running laps. The events are held overnight to represent the fact that cancer never sleeps. Through the survivors’ lap and the luminaries’ ceremony, we honor the people who have faced cancer first hand, and we remember those who have been lost to this disease.”
DH: What does being Northern Blair Relay for Life Ambassador 2008 mean to you?
RW: Representing Northern Blair as the Relay for Life Ambassador 2008 is an honor and a source of pride. I have seen firsthand the successes possible today with treatment and care. One has to experience Relay for Life to realize the worth of the event. It genuinely depicts the sense of unity and pride among the participants. Don’t miss a chance of a lifetime to experience the ray of hope and see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. If you need something to get strength from somewhere, spend the weekend at Relay for Life!
DH: You are a Tyrone Middle School Teacher. What grade and subject do you teach? How long have you been a teacher?
RW: I have taught for 32+ years. Currently, I am a Learning Support teacher for 5th grade children attending Tyrone Area Middle School. Hopefully, I have touched the lives of many young children while guiding them to become an independent, positive, and productive life-long learner.
DH: Do you live in Tyrone? Tell me about yourself and your family.
RW: Dale and I have raised three loving children in Bald Eagle and are now blessed with three beautiful grandchildren.
Mary Jo, age 32, graduated with a Master’s degree in Physical Therapy from St. Francis University. She works at the University Orthopedics in State College. She married Denny McClellan and they have a lively daughter, Hannah Grace.
Andrew, age 30, graduated from Lock Haven University with a Regular Education/Special Education degree. He is a Special Education Teacher in the Altoona Area School District. He married Shana Tennis and they have two children, “Nonstop” Carter and “Bubbly” Alayna.
Christopher, age 24, graduated from Pennsylvania School of Technology in Williamsport with a degree in heavy equipment.
DH: You are a cancer survivor. Please tell me about your personal story and your battle with this disease.
RW: In early 1991, I was exceptionally tired, but attributed it to a committed work ethic and motherhood. Thinking I may have diabetes, which is prevalent in my family, I saw a specialist only to find something much worse. He recommended I make an appointment with Dr. Steven Piver, a renowned doctor, of the Roswell Cancer Clinic in Buffalo, NY.
On February 13, 1991, my family, forming a caravan of five cars, made the trip to Buffalo where I learned how serious my condition was. I was given a choice. I could forgo treatment having approximately five days to live, undergo surgery, which the doctors gave me a 3 percent chance of survival, and participate in aggressive treatment for advanced cervical cancer. It was not long to opt for surgery because I was young, possessed a deep-rooted Catholic faith, and more than anything I wanted to live to raise our three young children.
On February 14, 1991, doctors removed as much of the cancer as they could. I vividly remember the doctors telling me after the surgery, “You are not supposed to be here. We are very good at what we do here, but the Lord had a great hand in this and He definitely has a plan for you.”
Because of the seriousness of my cancer, the treatments to kill the remainder of the cancer cells started within days, even before I had a chance to heal from the major operation. The treatments included two radium implants. During those treatments, I had to lie still on my back for three LONG days in isolation with any movement on my part would cause excruciating pain. The radium implant was so powerful that doctors had to give me a two-week break between the treatments. I recall when deciding to go back for the second treatment was among one of the toughest decisions I had to make as part of my recovery.
But it took more than just the radium implants. I would have daily radiation treatments through the end of May that would keep me in Buffalo. I lived at Hope Lodge, an American Cancer Society residential facility near the facility. The chemotherapy treatments left me vomiting and with diarrhea to the point that my weight went from 225 to 112 pounds. A couple of times I had to be hospitalized for dehydration. The only thing I could eat was baby food.
During those months of treatment, support from family, community, and colleagues kept me going. The cards were important because they represented an action someone took. And that’s the tragedy of the whole thing. In the beginning, I didn’t take any action in my everyday life of taking care of myself. I think that’s the irony of it. If I would have taken action [getting regular checkups], I would have had continued good health because this type of cancer, diagnosed at an early stage, is typically uncalled for. My close brush with death has caused me to slow and appreciate what’s really important in life!
DH: What do the Relay for Life walks and events mean to you?
RW: At the Tyrone Schools, Linda Strong and Ann Yaniello always took an active part each year in Relay. Their unselfishness, commitment, and excellent example were contagious and in 2000 is when I initially became involved in Relay. I have seen some of the heartaches, and, of course, my hope is for cancer research to thrive and every individual with this disease will benefit. I hold dear to the fact that “Everyone is there for everyone!” The survivors’ lap when cancer patients walk while the teams cheer, and the luminary ceremony honoring those who won and lost their battle with cancer mean the most to me.
For more information, contact Tammy Henshey, Online Chair, Relay for Life of Northern Blair, at thenshey@verizon.net.