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Five-time Cancer Survivor Says 'Remain Positive'

Five different forms of cancer over four decades haven't gotten 75-year-old Edith Saurer down.

For New Lenox's Edith Saurer, a 75-year-old survivor of five different forms of cancer, the words "give up" never entered her mind.

Having twice endured the symptoms of skin cancer—the first time when she was in her late 30s and again in 2007, cancerous polyps in her esophagus and colon in 1984, and breast cancer in 2001 or 2002, she has a message for those diagnosed with cancer: "Never give up."

Standing about 5-foot tall, the woman with a thick Austrian accent, is a dynamo when it comes to withstanding the punches that life throws. Growing up during the 1950s in the Soviet-occupied portion of Austria during the Cold War, Saurer said she learned how to cope with adversity. "There was never enough food."

Alone and at the age of 16, Saurer left her homeland and came to America. She settled in the Chicago region working factory jobs for the bulk of her life, getting married and raising one daughter. "My husband died when my daughter was 11," she said.

In the nutshell, she said, life hasn't been easy, but "I'm a positive person. You have to be to get through the hard times."

Her first bout of cancer started shortly after the death of her husband. "My daughter was afraid I was going to die. She'd ask me, 'are you going to leave too?'"

But Saurer was young, and the cancer—a growth near her ear—turned out to be non-life threatening. "I had 28 radiation (treatments). …My hair fell out around my ear and the back of my head."

About five years later, she was diagnosed with cancerous polyps in her colon. It was caught early, she said, and it didn't spread. Shortly thereafter, she was taken to University of Chicago with cancerous tissues on her esophagus. Again, it was the early stage of the disease, she said. Treatment was minimal.

The bigger test of courage came with a diagnosis of breast cancer in 2002. Preferring not to go into detail about the diagnosis or treatment, Saurer said, "I just prayed a lot. I always pray."

Her final bout of cancer, skin cancer, was likely due to radiation treatments around her ear in the late 1970s.

A few years ago, Saurer participated in a rally for cancer survivors in the Lincoln-Way area. "I tell people to stay strong."

Her tips for surviving the anguish, pain and grief:

  • Pray a lot
  • Listen to music. Let yourself go with it.
  • Refuse to focus on the cancer. Think about something else.
  • Steep yourself in a book. There's always a story about someone suffering more than you.
  • Relax while watching a movie.

"I stay active. I volunteer at the Rialto (Square) Theatre" and belong to a couple German Clubs. "I have wonderful friends," she said. But most of all, the support and help from her daughter, Mokena's Diane Carvic, has been "wonderful."

Remember, she said, the way to withstand the sheer anxiety of cancer is not succumbing to the fear. "I believe you can almost heal yourself. You have to be a positive person."

At the moment, her knee is causing her problems. "I had surgery last month. It's still swollen and a bit painful."  

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Nancy October 16, 2012 at 09:57 PM
God's continued blessings Edith...thanks for sharing...
Susan October 24, 2012 at 11:02 PM
You have been healed by the stripes of Jesus and so have I as I am also a survivor. You are so right, I pray and praise God daily. I talk to him more than anyone. Remember we are blessed and highly favored and thank you so much for sharing your blessings with everyone. Susan
Susann October 25, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Thank you for this beautiful story. I am battling stage 4 and I try to stay as positive as possible. For by "HIS STRIPES" we "ARE" healed. I will survive and I've already won no matter what the situation looks like. Praise the Lord, my HEALER.
Bev Jo October 25, 2012 at 12:46 AM
The radiation treatments caused the other cancers, just as Roger Ebert believes the radiation treatments he got as a boy led to his later cancer. It's not just radiation "treatment," but every radioactive scan causes cancer, as well as heart damage. My Physician's Assistant said that he was taught at Stanford Medical School that 20% of all cancers in the US are now caused by CAT scans.
Jarrell October 25, 2012 at 03:20 AM
May god continue to wrap your angels he asigned to you to continue with protection your wonderful humble self brought u to see years of years.
MARCY COOKIE DAVID October 25, 2012 at 09:54 AM
I AM A 20 YEAR CANCER (COLORECTAL) SURVIVOR AS OF NEXT MONTH. I JUST CELEBRATED MY 75TH BIRTHDAY AND FEEL MOST FORTUNATE. I HAD SURGERY,WAS IN THE HOSPITAL FOR 10 DAYS, GOT AN INFECTION AND BACK IN THE HOSPITAL FOR 4 1/2 DAYS, HAD CHEMO FOR A YEAR AND 6 WEEKS OF RADIATION. GLAD TO BE ALIVE? YOU BETCHA.....UNFORTUNATELY MY HUSBAND GOT CANCER(LYMPHOMA 4TH STAGE) 2 YEARS AGO AND AFTER VERY AGGRESIVE CHEMO IS NOW IN REMISSION......TO ALL CANCER SURVIVORS, KEEP THE STRESS MINIMAL,HAVE A MUST WIN ATTITUDE, WAKE UP WITH A HAPPY FEELING EACH DAY AND LOVE AND SUPPORT THOSE DEAR TO YOU. MLD
Jerry curtis October 25, 2012 at 12:03 PM
My wife and I both are fighting two cancer diagnosis, what I see expressed in the comments are that god and jesus all powerful. And they do not cause the illness and can cure if they wish based on your level of faith, why do they allow satan ( implied ) to cause it? To test our faith and fidelity , do people that do not survive lack faith and so it is their fault. Dosen't make any sense to me.
jo October 25, 2012 at 12:31 PM
puts in all in perspective.. I have no problems now,, what an inspirational story..makes me ashamed of my petty gripes
Lauren October 25, 2012 at 02:06 PM
My prayers are with you.
Lauren October 25, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Today I finished my last radiation treatment. Reading this post has me worried now.
Cindy Halpern October 25, 2012 at 03:07 PM
What an amazing woman!

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