Boutwell among ‘Women of Hope’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When Jean Boutwell was invited to attend the “Women of Hope” luncheon at Frazer United Methodist Church in Montgomery, she was honored.

Her daughter-in-law, Liz Boutwell, asked Boutwell to be her guest because she is a cancer survivor so it was reason to celebrate and also an opportunity to spend some time together.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and Boutwell takes every opportunity to tell her story of survival to those who are battling the disease.

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“But you know, it’s a funny thing, I had breast cancer so long ago that it’s almost like I never had it,” she said. “And, that’s a good thing, and it also gives hope to others.”

Boutwell carried that thought with her to the luncheon and enjoyed the fellowship of the outing.

The luncheon was held in the church fellowship hall and hosted by Carrabba’s Italian Grill. The fashion show was presented by Henig Furs.

“The fashion show was very entertaining and Carolyn Gibson, of Troy, was one of the models,” Boutwell said. “We had a really good time.”

The guests were either cancer survivors or caregivers for those survivors.

“It was inspiring and encouraging to be among so many women who have defeated this terrible disease,” Boutwell said.

The audience was polled as to the number of years as cancer survivors.

“They started with five and there were many of us,” she said. “The number went up to 10 and 15 and on up to 30. Finally, they asked if anyone was a survivor of more than 30 years and I stood up. I am a 34-year cancer survivor.”

Boutwell was honored as the longest survivor of cancer at the luncheon and awarded a signed print of Montgomery artist Susan K. Poole’s “Survivor Angel.”

“I was so proud of the print and so proud to see so many women who have won and are winning their battles with cancer,” she said. “When I was diagnosed on Oct. 8, 1975, hearing the words cancer was like a death sentence. And, it crossed my mind that I might not make it but Dr. J.O. Colley was wonderful. After my mastectomy, I took cobalt treatments five days a week for weeks. And I found out just how wonderful people are.”

Boutwell said, at first, she thought people would shun her because she had cancer but realized quickly that was not true.

“I was working at the highway department here and the employees lined up to take me to Montgomery for my treatments each day,” she said. “They could not have been more caring or more helpful. I’ll never forget how good they were to me.” Boutwell said she never gave up hope that she would defeat the disease.

“I’ve survived 34 years now and I’m living proof that you can beat breast cancer,” she said. “When you are diagnosed, that’s not the end. It’s just the beginning of a fight that you can win. That’s my message to anyone facing cancer – you can win. That was the message to the Women of Hope and it’s my message, too.”