Originally created 10/10/01

Sisters battled breast cancer



AIKEN - As sisters Martha Blackwell and Connie Adkins fought breast cancer one after the other, they treated themselves to their mother's homemade potato soup after each chemotherapy treatment.

"It gave us something to look forward to," said Mrs. Adkins, who at 48 is 10 years younger than her sister. "I was like a child. I would cry."

Aiken Regional Medical Centers is celebrating National Cancer Survivor's Day today. It is an event the sisters attend every year.

"You don't know what that means, to be able to say, 'I'm a survivor,"' said Mrs. Blackwell, now in her seventh cancer-free year.

Mrs. Blackwell was diagnosed after a mammogram seven months before her sister felt the lump in her own left breast. After two lumpectomies and a mastectomy to remove her left breast, Mrs. Blackwell fought through radiation and chemotherapy.

When it was time for the treatments, Mrs. Blackwell would let only her sister accompany her.

"The radiation machine sounds like a bunch of bees buzzing. It's scary. There was one light in the room to the right, and I would focus on that light and think about a vacation I had been on," Mrs. Blackwell said.

A month after Mrs. Blackwell finished her last chemotherapy treatment, Mrs. Adkins found out her lump was malignant.

"I started banging the wall in the hospital," Mrs. Adkins said. "I was so angry. I felt the family had been through enough with Sister going through it."

The sisters know that if it were not for a supportive family, the right attitude, blunt doctors and their faith, they would have fallen further into the depression the illness causes.

"The doctors told us it was mind over matter. You've got to get yourself happy," Mrs. Adkins said.

When she was sick, she would catch her husband, Jerry, staring at her, and he would say he was thinking of the things they would do when she was well.

"Now he tells me, 'I was thinking, what am I going to do without you?"' Mrs. Adkins said.

The sisters are survivors. But they still suffer through the aftermath of breast cancer.

Mrs. Blackwell just had her second cataract surgery Monday, and she is in the first stage of a breast reconstruction. Mrs. Adkins suffers from a form of arthritis.

Both women are committed to pursuing dreams nearly squelched by cancer. Mrs. Blackwell's dream is to visit all 50 states. Mrs. Adkins hopes to help other cancer survivors through a counseling program. She is now waiting to go through training.

Reach Carly Phillips at (803) 648-1395.

If you go:

What: Today is Aiken's first Mayor's Walk for Breast Cancer Awareness.

When: Registration for the walk begins at 8:30 a.m. The walk begins at 9:35 a.m.

Where: The Newberry Street Festival area