WELLSBORO — A Covington woman is this year’s honorary chair at the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life Tioga County.
Jean Dewitz is a 15-year breast cancer survivor. She will be sharing her story at this year’s Relay for Life, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, July 20.
She was a business woman, who moved to the area with her husband, John Hummel. She had a passion for art and handcrafts, especially jewelry. For four years, from 2007-2011, Dewitz was director of the Gmeiner Art & Cultural Center in Wellsboro until her retirement.
She was able to accept the invitation to serve as honorary chair because the Relay this year did not conflict with the annual art fair held at Penn State.
Dewitz’s cancer was discovered in July 2004 following a routine mammogram. That included a sonogram because of some calcification in the breast.
Doctors decided to perform a biopsy and “a week a half later, I got the call it was breast cancer,” said Dewitz. The cancer was discovered in her left breast.
“I was surprised. I never got really frightened, but I remember I was surprised,” said Dewitz. “Everything had always been normal.”
There was no history of breast cancer on her father or mother’s side, said Dewitz. Following an unusual mammogram in the late 1990s, she had all her mammograms performed at the Breast Health Center in Williamsport.
On Friday, Aug. 13, 2004, Dewitz underwent breast surgery. Dr. Timothy Pagana performed a mastectomy and reconstruction surgery was performed by Dr. Herbert Ecker, at Williamsport Hospital. After recovering from those surgeries, she had a five-year drug regimen.
“It was very straight forward. Either you have surgery and make a choice or you don’t have surgery and you die,” she said.
“I use more common sense than anything else. After the initial surprise, I wondered where I would go or what I would do,” she added. “I’m glad I had a mastectomy. I felt it gave me the best chance for survival.”
Dewitz has continued her regular breast checks and has had no recurrence. She recommends that women have mammograms at least once a year or as recommended by the patient’s physician.
If finances or insurance are an issue, she would suggest that patients contact the American Cancer Society who can direct them to program for free or reduced cost mammograms, she said.
“With all the changes in health care, you have to check with people who are knowledgeable,” she said.
Dewitz will speak at the Celebrate/Recover/Fight Back Ceremony during Relay For Life. The ceremony begins at 6 p.m. on The Green in Wellsboro.