Cancer is indiscriminate to the age of its victims. Just ask Clara Belle Brownlee, 95, who discovered a lump on her breast two years ago.
Brownlee’s daughter, Peggy Schaub, remembers the day well. “Mom came to me and said, ‘I’ve got something to tell you, and I am worried. I found a lump on my breast.’
“Although this was a really scary moment for me, I told her in a comforting way, ‘It will be OK. We need to get this looked at. We will get this taken care of.’ ”
And they did.
An ultrasound revealed a tumor, but at Brownlee’s age, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments were out of the question. “She probably wouldn’t have survived surgery,” Schaub said.
Dr. Anuj Agarwala, who practices out of Community Hospital South, decided that Brownlee’s best chance would be to take tamoxifen, which has turned out to be a godsend.
“The tamoxifen keeps shrinking the tumor, and it’s not spreading,” said Schaub, who has nothing but praise for Agarwala.
“He has been great with my mother; he is wonderful. We absolutely love him to death.”
Brownlee continues to get regular exams, and everything looks so promising that Schaub mentioned her mom will be 100 in five years. “We threw her a big party for her 90th birthday. I don’t know what we’ll do when she turns 100.”
Brownlee remains upbeat and is so thankful because she knows this could have gone another way. All four of her siblings died of cancer. “She knows how fortunate she is; she knows that many women with breast cancer are suffering.”
Despite her age, Brownlee continues to live on her own in her Perry Township home.
“She doesn’t cook anymore, but she walks with the aid of a walker,” her daughter said. “After getting up every morning, she washes her face and watches TV until someone comes over to make her breakfast. And someone is there to make her dinner. She can always get a snack if she gets hungry before a meal.
“Oh, Mom will call us to let us know when she needs something. Sometimes it can wait until someone is going over.
“I have some angels – and they know who they are – who help me take care of Mom. And her neighbors are great about looking out for her well-being.”
Clara Belle Graf was born March 28, 1922, in Oakford, Ind., near Tipton. She later married to William Brownlee, now deceased, and they adopted Schaub, their only child. Mrs. Brownlee has two grandsons, Paul (Kellie) and Patrick (Brittanie) Schaub, and seven-great-grandchildren. She worked in factories and retired from Wavetech in Beech Grove and volunteered at the Children’s Guardian Home.
Before osteoporosis slowed her, she read a lot and enjoyed going places with her daughter, grandsons and their families.
“It’s a shame that she is in so much pain from her osteoporosis,” Schaub said, “but she still enjoys family functions, and she’s there mentally. We can still have conversations and talk about what’s going on in the world.”
Schaub and her husband, Greg, own E.M. Co., which has built a solid reputation for providing electrical/mechanical construction and services.
Longevity runs in the family; Greg’s mom, Louise, is 94. Looks like a couple of centennial birthday celebrations could be on the horizon.