Resident remembers loss of aunt to breast cancer

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Clymer: 'Today, we have the technology and medical experience to help others'

Dealing with the trauma and challenges of breast cancer is never easy, for the patient or for their loved ones, especially when a hard-fought battle is lost.

That's why October, which is breast cancer awareness month, is a little more difficult for local resident Stephanie Clymer, supply chain tech at Mercy Hospital, Cassville, who still remembers the pain of losing her aunt to the disease when she was in the eighth grade.

Her name was Carol Morris, and she unfortunately lost her battle to breast cancer on Oct.15, 1996. She was in her 50s.

Clymer remembers the day her mother shared that her Aunt Carol was sick.

"We came home from school one day, and my mom explained that our aunt had been diagnosed with breast cancer, that it was aggressive, and she was referred to multiple doctors throughout our area," Clymer said. "She had a double mastectomy, and they sent her to M.D. Anderson, a cancer center in Houston, Texas. She went there for about two-and-a-half years, and came back and got really sick.

"That was back in the 1990s, when they didn't have the treatments like they do now. After they sent her home, she was working and got really sick, and she went home and never got to go back to work."

She died not long after.

Clymer said it was a difficult time, and still is, because she was very close to her aunt. One of her favorite memories of her aunt was at Christmas time.

"We always had Christmas Eve at her house and she always made sure the family was together and that we had a good time," Clymer said.

Morris, who was from Marionville, worked for what was then the Aurora Community Hospital for many years as the facility's medical records director.

Because of losing someone she loved to breast cancer, Clymer does everything she can to raise awareness about the disease, promote self-care and advocate for patients and families.

One way she does that is to make pink ribbons, which she has done at Mercy Hospital Cassville for the last three years, to help raise money for the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks. The organization uses the funds to help pay for screening mammograms, and practical expenses like rent, utilities and car repairs for women undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

She also offers encouragement.

"I would encourage patients and families battling breast cancer to stay strong, have faith, and know that, today, we have the technology, we have the medical experience and things to help others; and just to keep fighting, because there is hope," Clymer said.

She also highly encourages all women, no matter their age, to do their monthly breast exams, follow up with mammograms, and if they feel a lump or anything that doesn't feel right, to get it checked out promptly.

"Also lymph nodes, if you notice them swelling, get it checked," Clymer said. "[My aunt] had swollen lymph nodes under her arms."

While Clymer hasn't reached the age to start getting mammograms herself, she said the experience of losing a loved one to breast cancer makes her much more aware of the risks.

She also said men should be aware of breast cancer, too.

"It can happen to men as well, so they need to watch, too," she said. "I can't emphasize enough, both for women and men, to pay attention to their bodies and do the monthly exams, and do your mammograms. Life is a blessing and people need to know they're not alone, there is help in our community and to not give up the fight."

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