RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS Mike and Elizabeth "Betty Ann" Waidell sit together with their poodle, Gracie. Betty Ann, who is fighting breast cancer and is told she has a great chance of winning the battle, will receive a Courage Award from the Carbon-Tamaqua Unit of the American Cancer Society when the group hosts its annual telethon on April 10-11. The telethon will be broadcast on Blue Ridge Communications TV-13.
It was Oct. 15 of last year when she got the call that any woman would dread after having a breast biopsy.
Elizabeth "Betty Ann" Waidell learned she had breast cancer.
Waidell, of 301 Clark St., Tamaqua, was alone when the call came from her doctor. Her husband was at work.
She admits she was scared.
But then, her attitude changed dramatically. Instead of feeling self-pity, she turned into a fighter.
She developed a strong outlook, proclaiming, "This won't get me."
"I have too much going on in my life," she said. "I have a good life. I have too many friends. I have a good family. I have a husband who stands by me. I have a good life and a little girl," referring to her 4-year-old poodle, Gracie, who had an abusive life before Betty Ann rescued her.
"This won't get me," she repeated.
It was this attitude that got her nominated, and then named a recipient of a Courage Award from the Tamaqua-Carbon Unit of the American Cancer Society.
The award will be presented on the Cancer Society's annual telethon, which will be held April 10 and 11 on Blue Ridge Communications TV-13.
Until the dramatic medical development, both Betty Ann and her husband Mike agree they have lived a relatively healthy life with the exception of Betty Ann's two knee replacements.
The couple, who will be celebrating their 26th wedding anniversary in June, met each other at the South Ward Fire Company in Tamaqua.
Betty Ann worked in a garment factory. She and her co-workers went to the South Ward Fire Company after work and Mike was a volunteer and steward there.
She then became a volunteer at the fire company and they fell in love with each other.
"He even remembers what I wore the first time we went out," she laughed.
"We've been living it up until then," he interjected, referring to her cancer diagnosis.
Betty Ann said she had gotten regular mammograms. Because of the knee surgery, she missed one year. Then her insurance company urged her to get one.
They found something "that they called suspicious," she said, but was told not to worry about it. Her previous mammogram in 2007 had revealed calcium or a fatty cyst. As a result, the "suspicious" item was let alone to possibly dissolve itself.
She went for a follow-up mammogram, and then an ultrasound. This resulted in a biopsy.
"When I went for the biopsy, I didn't know I'd be getting it that day," she said. "I had plane tickets to leave for Las Vegas."
The biopsy didn't stop the travel plans.
She went home, grabbed her suitcases, and she and Mike went to Vegas and saw Cher perform, all in the same day.
When they returned, she got the phone call that the biopsy revealed breast cancer: invasive, ductile carcinoma, as they say in medical terms.
When she called Mike and told him, he assured her, "I'm not going to leave anything happen to you."
Her voice choked as she recalled telling her son, Mark, a student at the Bradford Campus of the University of Pittsburgh. She said he asked her, "Mom, are you going to die?"
For her husband, it wasn't the first time someone close to him got cancer.
In 1992, his brother George Waidell learned he had leukemia.
Six years later, Mike donated bone marrow to help George battle the disease. George has been free of cancer since then.
In 1999, George became a recipient of an ACS Courage Award.
Both Betty Ann and Mike are lifelong residents of Tamaqua and graduates of Tamaqua High School.
She is the daughter of Kathleen and the late Joseph Bubble.
Three months after Betty Ann was diagnosed with breast cancer, her mother also was diagnosed with it.
"I used to get everything my mom got," joked Betty Ann. "This time, I got it first."
She theorizes that there might be something in the coal banks behind her Dutch Hill residence that contributes to the cancer cause, noting several people in her block are affected with various types of the disease.
Asked what advice she would have for others, Betty Ann said, "Believe and trust in your doctors and do not worry about what might not happen."
She added, "The doctors said I have a good survival rate."
She said she already had five rounds of chemotherapy, with the final one set for April 13, two days after she receives her ACS award. In May, she will begin radiation treatments.
Mike said the cancer hasn't spread. A few lymph nodes were affected, but they were removed.
"They think I have a good attitude," Betty Ann said of her doctors.
She said her hobbies are shopping and going to concerts.
She and Mike often attend concerts at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe.
"I like my country singers," she added. "I love Penn's Peak. I love the food there."
She said she has plans to attend a lot of concerts in the future, stressing, "This won't get me."