Southsider Voice correspondent
Once people hear Lillian “Lill” Clark’s story, they immediately understand why her five sons teasingly insist that their mother has nine lives.
Clark’s story with the color pink dates back to 1996.
“My oldest son went with me to the doctor,” she said. “He was my lifeguard then. He always has been.”
At that appointment Clark was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer, the same disease that took her mother’s life.
She promptly gathered her family, including husband Dick Clark, and sons Jeffery, Ron and Doug Sego and Brian and Anthony Clark.
“I just told them all that I had breast cancer,” she said. “We are a very positive family and a Christian family. We handed it over to the Lord.”
Undergoing 21 weeks of chemotherapy, 10 rounds of radiation, the removal of some lymph nodes and a lumpectomy was challenging but manageable, she said.
Losing all of her hair secretly broke her heart. “Now that part was real hard on me.”
To show only an upbeat attitude to loved ones, Clark kept that struggle to herself.
Until her hair grew back, she jokingly showed off a colorful collection of hats and scarves for family members and friends. She also presented educational classes at church to share her wisdom about how best to get through cancer.
“My class was called ‘It’s Okay to Cry,’ ” Clark said. “People just don’t know what to say to you when you have cancer.”
When she left her five-year checkup with great news – no cancer- Clark happily celebrated with those she loves best.
Grateful that her life would not be interrupted again by cancer, this grandmother of 16 and great-grandmother of four returned to her volunteer job at the gift shop at Johnson Memorial Hospital.
One year later, breast cancer again tested this rather sassy lady with so much energy.
“That is when I had a double mastectomy,” Clark said.
Daughter-in-law Darlene Sego of Franklin stayed with Clark to help manage drainage tubes and bandage changes.
During recovery, Clark’s smiling attitude never wavered.
“I want my kids to know that you always have to think positive. Attitude has a lot to do with how you get through cancer.”
In 2007 Clark faced uterine cancer, surgery and an extensive recovery.
In 2012 her oldest sister, Charlene Plunkett of Speedway, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Last March Clark went through open heart surgery.
Her pace might be just a little bit slower these days, but Clark is still laughing and paying attention to how a positive attitude lights even the darkest moments.
“It was hard for me to learn to ask people for help,” she said of lessons learned during treatment and recovery. “I like to do everything myself. But you know, people really want to help. And prayers are always good. The Lord will always hear you. And well, I’m still kickin’!”