Claire E. LeCompte, 70, advocate for colorectal cancer patients

August 02, 1998|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

When she was 15, Claire Elizabeth Brady was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and was given a 1-in-100 chance of surviving.

Until she died July 26 of a brain tumor at her Severna Park home, Claire E. Brady LeCompte, 70, who had worn a colostomy bag as a result of life-saving surgery 55 years earlier, made it her life's work to comfort, educate and inspire those similarly afflicted.

She taught by example that it was possible to lead a normal life and triumph over the disease that for years was known as the "cancer no one talks about."

Claire Brady was born and raised in Baltimore and later moved to Annapolis. In 1943, as a teen-age soda jerk, she noticed that her hands shook and she was feeling nauseated.

After medicine prescribed by a pharmacist failed to calm her stomach, she entered Maryland General Hospital, where she was diagnosed with cancer.

"Perhaps it was my age -- how do you tell a 15-year-old that she will have to wear a bag around her waist the rest of her life? -- but I have no recollection of anyone telling me what my surgery was all about. Young people then did not have colostomies, so there was no one my age to talk to me," she told the Ostomy Quarterly in 1977.

When her surgeon declined to use radium because it would make her sterile, her mother wondered whether a man would marry a girl with a colostomy.

The doctor told her mother that a colostomy would not make any difference if he loved her, Mrs. LeCompte recalled in the interview.

The surgery, which removed the cancer and her rectum, left her with an opening in her side for the elimination of body wastes.

Despite having to wear a bag attached to a belt for the rest of her life, Mrs. LeCompte refused to let it slow her down.

She attended Eastern High School but did not graduate because of her illness. She later earned her General Educational PTC Development diploma and became a talented musician, playing

string bass with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

She was awarded a Carnegie Foundation scholarship to study music and art.

In 1946, she won the Miss American Girl Beauty Contest.

She married Donald G. LeCompte in 1949.

She worked for Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. in Annapolis until her two daughters were born by Caesarean section.

"She always felt that, through her adversity, an opportunity was created for her to help others," said her daughter Donna LeCompte-Lawson of Annapolis.

Mrs. LeCompte was a founding member in 1974 and later president of the Anne Arundel County chapter of the United Ostomy Association, a support group for people with colostomies.

She was also an active board member of the Severna Park Unit of the American Cancer Society.

Her work earned her numerous awards and much recognition. She was given the Maryland Courage Award for cancer patients by the American Cancer Society.

She also worked with the Girl Scouts and the Severna Park High School Band Boosters.

She was a member of the United Methodist Women and taught Sunday school at Pasadena United Methodist Church and, more recently, at Asbury United Methodist Church.

Mrs. LeCompte was also an accomplished artist.

A memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. Aug. 9 at Asbury United Methodist Church, 78 Church Road in Arnold.

In addition to her husband and daughter, Mrs. LeCompte is survived by another daughter, Lauree Kenyon of White Plains, Charles County; three brothers, Kenneth Brady of Vero Beach, Fla., Sherwin Brady of Floyd, Va., and Frank Brady of Towson; a sister, June Pearce of Frederick; a stepbrother, Roy Peddicord of Annapolis; and seven grandchildren.

Pub Date: 8/02/98

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