Mrs. Quayle recalls cancer tragedy Vice president's wife speaks at Annapolis dinner.

January 24, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Correspondent

ANNAPOLIS -- Marilyn Quayle brought her own tragic cancer story to Maryland's capital last night and urged people to prepare for the deadly disease by seeking early protection and prevention.

Saying her own mother failed to recognize the first signs of breast cancer, Vice President Dan Quayle's wife urged society to stamp out the disease's "dark trail of tragedy."

"The one thing we don't expect to hear is the words, 'You have cancer,' " Mrs. Quayle said. "Yet one in three of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime. This tells us we must be prepared."

Mrs. Quayle was in Annapolis to kick off a prevention program that will send minority doctors into poor neighborhoods to inform underprivileged Anne Arundel County residents about cancer prevention.

"You have to have a pro-active program," Mrs. Quayle said in an interview. "You have got to go where the people are to do the checking."

Later, she spoke to 350 people at a $50-a-plate tribute dinner to the late Dr. Aris T. Allen, sponsored by the Annapolis unit of the American Cancer Society.

Dr. Allen, who was the General Assembly's first black Republican and who helped lead the desegregation effort in Anne Arundel County, took his own life last year after discovering he had terminal prostate cancer.

His wife, Dr. Faye Allen, said her late husband would have been proud to help sponsor the cancer society's program.

"It helps a group that needs it the most -- a group that has a high incidence of cancer."

But it is not just the poor who have high cancer rates. Maryland -- at 194 cancer deaths per 100,000 population -- has the highest cancer death rate of any state in the United States, a fact that did not escape Mrs. Quayle.

"There will be no apologies or cheers for being first in this category. Too many loved ones lost. Too many families shattered. Cancer demands our nation's focus."

And Mrs. Quayle speaks from personal experience. In 1975, her mother, Mary Alice Tucker, died of breast cancer at 57.

"She was one of the unfortunate people who found a lump on her breast and her doctor told her not to worry," Mrs. Quayle said. "And she didn't.

"Early detection and prevention might have given my mother more years to be with us. What happened to my mother does not have to happen to you."

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