ROCK FALLS – Peggy Ohare has one thing for which to thank cancer: She no longer fears death.
In July 1969, Ohare, formerly Peggy Stern, then of Sterling, had an abnormal pap smear; it showed class-3 dysplasia, or precancerous cell growth. By October 1969, after a 3-month wait, she had another abnormal pap smear; this time, it showed class-4 dysplasia, or cancerous cell growth.
“It’s hell to think you have cancer and be told to wait it out,” the 79-year-old recalls.
On Oct. 21, 1969, her 37th birthday, Ohare had a cone biopsy through which a cone-shaped wedge of tissue was removed from her cervix to be examined. Within a week, she started to severely hemorrhage.
A week later, she was admitted to the hospital and put on bed rest. By the next day, she was weak and pale.
“I put my light on to call the nurse because I had passed (blood) clots,” she recalls. “Then, my friend, who worked in anesthesiology, passed by me and stuck his head in the door and said I blended right in with the sheets; he went and got the nurse.”
At 2 o’clock that afternoon, Ohare underwent an emergency hysterectomy.
For the next 3 days, she was completely out of it. She had an out-of-body experience in which she saw a friend who had died a little more than a week earlier and felt the peace of the other side.
“She was there when I crossed over,” she recalls. “She was in a gown; I couldn’t see her face, but I knew it was her. And angels – the bust silhouettes of angels—were on either side of her.
“She was telling me, ‘Go back, Peggy. Go back, Peggy,’ and at the same time, the nurse was saying, ‘Come back, Peggy. Come back, Peggy.’
“It was so calm and peaceful,” she says. “It made me no longer afraid of death.”
Several days later, by early November, Ohare returned home. But the active single mother of six children, the ages 2 to 18, was restricted from doing too much.
“I couldn’t do anything,” she recalls. “I couldn’t take care of the children … I couldn’t go back to work.”
Within a couple months, Ohare went back to work and never looked back.
“I learned to be independent, so I think I just relied on my strength and determination,” she says of her relatively short battle with cancer. “I’ve always believed where there’s a will, there’s a way. I put a roof over our heads and food on our table by myself. I figured if I could do that, I could do anything.
“I don’t really think about it much anymore,” she says. “The only thing I really think about is the experience; it’s as clear today as it was back then.
“I just took it day by day … and everything just kind of fell into place.”
Ohare now cares for her elderly husband, Jack, who had a stroke in 2005, and her disabled son, Todd.
“God never puts more on your plate than you can handle,” she says. “My plate was full then, and it’s still full now.”