Taneytown city clerk is ready to take her breast cancer message to the public

Hess to push awareness at shopping center event

April 23, 1999|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

Today, Taneytown City Clerk Linda M. Hess takes her last radiation treatment, a final zap to eradicate any vestiges of cancer that might have remained after her treatment for a breast tumor.

Tomorrow, she will sit at a table at the Taneytown Shopping Center to help promote breast cancer awareness. She will talk to anyone who wants or needs a reminder of why it's important to perform regular self-examinations.

"They may feel more comfortable talking to someone they know," Hess said.

Almost everyone in town know her. As city clerk for 23 years, Hess is one of the community's most enduring public officials. Mayors, city managers, police chiefs and council members have come and gone since August 1976, when she was appointed by Mayor Neal Powell.

Twenty-two years later, in August 1998, Hess found a small, hard lump on the bony area above her breast.

Husband noticed lump

Her husband noticed it first, and one of the things Hess pointed out is that loved ones can play a role in reminding women to examine themselves monthly.

"I'm going to be pushing self-exams and mammograms," said Hess, 48. She had been getting mammograms twice a year, but the one she had a year before the lump appeared had detected nothing unusual.

When three businesswomen at the shopping center planned tomorrow's "Shopping for the Cure" event, they asked Hess to participate. Diane Parker, owner of Diane's Hallmark, came up with the idea when Hallmark stores around the country were set to promote breast cancer awareness this month.

"Because we were doing it here at this store, we thought this would be a nice way to give out information to the public," Parker said. "This affects everyone at some point in their life, through friends or family."

The event will last from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will include free blood-pressure screenings, information on mammograms, and wigs and other products breast-cancer patients might need. Tables will be sponsored by Carroll County General Hospital, the American Cancer Society, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Carroll County Health Department.

Parker planned the event with Jackie Boisvert of Taneytown Video and Kim Coyle of the Liquor Barn. Boisvert, who knows Hess, asked her to take part.

Hess is the person from whom all property owners get bills. Anyone who ever had a question about a sewer and water bill has probably spoken to her. She issues permits, records the minutes of City Council meetings and handles an assortment of other duties. When the city was between city managers -- the job has turned over three times since she became clerk -- she took on the duties of the office.

She was a busy woman. Even after her husband noticed the lump, Hess said, she put off going to the doctor. Her mother and sister had had benign breast tumors removed, and there was no history of cancer in her family.

"It was summer, and there were conferences I wanted to go to," Hess said.

"On Oct. 8, I went to my doctor, and she suggested I get a mammogram and sonogram. She got me an appointment the next day. She was very insistent."

The next day was a Friday, and when the mammogram and sonogram indicated the lump was suspicious, her doctor had a surgeon look at it Monday. He removed the lump for testing the next day.

"It was a really easy surgery," Hess said. "I was awake. He was talking to me. Except toward the end, I heard a change in his voice."

Partial mastectomy

When the surgeon came in to talk to her after surgery, she knew what he was going to tell her: The lump was malignant. She had to return for another operation, a partial mastectomy and removal of 14 lymph nodes, none of which showed cancer.

Her prognosis was good, but she had to undergo chemotherapy and radiation therapy. She began chemotherapy Nov. 21, a series of four doses three weeks apart. Her hair fell out, her immune system was weakened, and she was fatigued.

On March 8, she began the last stage of her treatment, 6 1/2 weeks of radiation therapy five days a week.

"Until I had to go through this, I thought that working three jobs and staying out late the night before was tired," Hess said. That was nothing compared to the fatigue caused by cancer treatment, she said.

Hess continued to work throughout her treatment. The city provided her with a computer at home, and she worked from there the week after a chemotherapy dose, coming into the office as she began to feel stronger.

"I needed to work," Hess said. "I think the most important thing is getting up and putting your makeup on and looking good. You need to feel good about yourself. If I didn't work, I'd stay in my nightgown and walk around the house bald."

Pub Date: 4/23/99

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