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Dealing with breast cancer didn’t dampen Theda Meredith’s spirit, her success in banking or her love of life.
In 1997, Meredith was diagnosed with breast cancer. She found the lump herself and a specialist recommended removing the tumor along with a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery on her right breast. There were 13 malignant lymph nodes.
She went through chemotherapy and felt fine. The cancer returned in 2000 and again in 2003.
In her second diagnosis the doctor told her it was in her entire body including her brain and liver and didn’t give her a good chance of survival.
“They more or less gave me a death sentence,” she said.
Her oldest daughter, Lisa, recommended a second opinion, which turned out to be good advice. In reality, the cancer had not spread throughout her body and she only needed 30 days of radiation and chemotherapy after the malignant lymph nodes in her shoulder were removed. She also was prescribed a new drug which she said made a big difference.
She also became part of a clinical trial, hoping to help future generations.
Her third bout was a single lymph node in her chest cavity that was easily removed and treated.
Everything is going well now. She recently had a tumor show up on her right kidney and the tumor was removed in July, but it was only dead cells and a lymphoma that never formed.
Throughout her fight with cancer she also was climbing the corporate ladder at The Cecilian Bank.
She began her banking career as a bookkeeper. In her 30 years she helped open the branch in Rineyville, later managing it. While going through chemo, she also went to banking school. When she retired she was senior vice president in charge of retail banking.
Her banking family means a lot to her. Co-workers took her to treatments and prepared meals for her.
“They really banded together for a lot of support,” Meredith said.
Barbara Edwards worked with Meredith for 25 years and considers her a good friend and Bunco buddy.
“She’s an amazing lady,” Edwards said, adding that Meredith is a strong advocate for continuing education.
In October, the bank has a yearly training called Theda Meredith Day inspired by Meredith’s positive attitude.
When she went through cancer, Edwards said, Meredith would show more concern for her co-workers than herself.
“When I looked at her I rarely had a bad day,” she said. “She’s an inspiration.”
Meredith said her church family at St. James Catholic Church and the community also were a source of strength. Not a day went by when she was sick she didn’t get a card in the mail, receive a phone call or a visit of support, she said.
She’s also drawn strength from other people she has met though breast cancer awareness events.
Last year, she was invited to the Parade of Pink on Oaks Day. Because bad weather didn’t allow her to complete the walk, she was invited to participate again this year.
“There’s a lot of extraordinary people out there that give you hope as survivors,” Meredith said, thinking of the survival stories shared at the event.
Because Meredith spent so many years caring for family, she had a hard time getting used to people caring for her.
“I was very humbled and appreciative,” she said. “I will never be able to repay them for what they’ve done.”
Her daughter, Kelly Owsley, had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and it was difficult for Meredith to watch her go through it.
“It was hard to see Kelly go through that because as a mother you just want to take the pain away,” she said.
Owsley credits her mom for pushing to find the right diagnosis and treatment to help with her JRA and considers her mom a role model.
Faith, prayers and a strong will to fight enabled Meredith to overcome cancer, her daughter said.
“She is by far the toughest and most brave woman I have ever encountered and I have been blessed to have her as a mother, role model, confidant, and true inspiration,” Owsley said.
Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
GETTING TO KNOW THEDA MEREDITH