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ANN CONWAY

Cancer Unit Honors Founder's Courage

June 28, 1990|ANN CONWAY

Take charge!

That's the message Wanda Cobb wants to convey to women. "Be responsible for your own body. Doctors are not always right. If you suspect something is wrong and a doctor says you're OK, get a second opinion."

Ten years ago, Cobb--beautiful wife, caring mother of four, stunning social pacesetter--sensed that something was wrong. She didn't feel well. Nothing seemed amiss, said the doctor who examined her. But Cobb persisted. She knew something was up. She felt so sick. Finally, doctors discovered that Cobb had breast cancer.

At a dinner on Monday at the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point, members and supporters of High Priority--a breast-cancer awareness group--honored the woman who founded their local chapter. They dedicated High Priority's fourth annual Celebrity Golf and Tennis Classic to Cobb, wife of Dr. Tyson Cobb, chief of cardiology at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange.

"We dedicate this event with love to our founder Wanda Cobb, whose strength and courage inspire us all," the program stated.

It marked a second triumph for Cobb. Only three weeks ago she returned from Texas where she had undergone a successful intense chemotherapy program-- twice her bone marrow was replaced--to battle the cancer that had recurred and threatened her life.

On Monday, looking radiant after her monthslong ordeal, Cobb mingled with the people she said "gave her the strength to keep going."

"I have a fabulous support system," she said. "My husband, children, family and friends. Their letters and cards-- stacks of them--helped me keep my faith up, keep up the hope that I am going to lick this thing once more."

Sitting at Cobb's table was her 24-year-old, look-alike daughter, Rebecca, who said there had been an ongoing joke at the hospital where her mother had undergone treatment: "The nurses were always saying: 'All mail goes to Cobb!' "

Then the smile faded. "I learned very young that life is way, way too short," said Rebecca, who quit her job to watch over her two younger sisters--Shelly, 18, and Susan, 15--while their mother was in Houston. "My mother was so careful about self-examination, everything. I have to wonder why it happened to her."

Tyson Cobb has asked himself the same question. "Why Wanda?" he said on Monday night. But, "why anybody?" he added.

"I have learned much from my wife, who is beautiful inside and out," Cobb said. "For the last 10 months she has been battling Stage IV cancer. And I have seen her manifest the most incredible inner strength.

"We have become very close. I am a physician, but I've tried to keep that in the background. It is far more important for me to be her husband."

The Cobbs have slowed down on attending black-tie galas, wine tastings, the incredibly magnetic makings of the good life they used to love so much, he said. "Now, we know our family is the most important thing. The kids come first."

Tyson Cobb has a message for men out there who are facing similar ordeals with their female loved ones: "Be understanding. Supportive. Wanda says she couldn't have faced that chemotherapy without the support of her family and friends. Never once has she been alone. We had someone at her side every single day."

One of High Priority's highest priorities is the distribution of an instructive, waterproof breast self-examination card that can hang on a shower or tub nozzle. "Do it," the card commands, meaning give yourself a monthly self-examination.

Wanda Cobb has a dream. "I want that card hanging in every shower in Orange County," she said.

Betty Belden Palmer and Sharon Paisley were tournament co-chairwomen. Honorary chairwomen were Virginia Knott Bender, Miriam Montapert and Toni Oliphant. On the committee: Ginny Hale, Carol Wilken, Olivia Johnson, Judy Dobbs, Karen Betson, Debbie Exley, Mary Stradling, Connie Murphy, Shirley Hardy, Jeanne Lorti, Ledge Hale, Deanna Rankin, Virginia Smallwood, Claire Burt and Nannette Mayo.

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