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100-year-old West Michigan woman Beats the Odds against cancer

5:29 PM, Mar 15, 2011   |    comments
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Irene Bacon, 100, has survived two types of cancer.

MECOSTA COUNTY, Mich. (WZZM) - There are only about 82,000 Americans who are 100 years old, according to the latest Census Report. Living that long and surviving cancer is quite a milestone.

A 100-year-old Mecosta County woman survived not one but two types of cancer.  She also raised 19 children.

Irene Bacon raised seven of her best friend's children after the woman died of tuberculosis in 1929. Bacon remembers what she told her friends husband.

"I said, 'I'll tell you what -- I'll try it on one condition'," says Bacon. "'If it works, okay. If I can't make it work, I'll at least stay until you can get someone else to take care of them'."

It worked so well that Irene fell in love with him and had 13 children of their own.

"I'm not the person who can sit down and do nothing," she says.

Even at the age of 100, Bacon still runs her own house. "I vacuum I dust I do my own laundry, I cook."

But she admits grocery shopping has gotten a little challenging now that she's losing her eyesight. "Oh, I know what that is, that's chicken, but what part of the chicken is it?"

It seems nothing will slow down Irene Bacon. "I haven't retired yet."

Not even cancer has gotten the best of her.  Her most recent battle was against skin cancer. Before that, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993.

Bacon still remembers the promise her doctor made to her. "I'll never forget the first words he said to me. 'I'm not gonna make you lose your hair'." And she didn't.

Bacon chose to have a mastectomy and follow-up treatment. She has advice to beat the odds against cancer: "Take care of it right when it's noticed. That's what I got to say about that just take care of it when it's time. When you notice it it's time."

So what's the likelihood that you'll live to be 100 like Bacon?  Pretty good, since the number of centenarians has almost doubled in the last 30 years.

Art Alberts is a researcher for the Van Andel Institute. He says while we are getting better at finding cancer earlier and prolonging life, those of us who may live to 100 will more than likely have to battle cancer at some point.

"As we go through life, expose ourselves to cigarette smoke or the sun you get damage to your DNA and you build up and accumulate defects in your genes," says Alberts.

But it is encouraging to know that surviving cancer and living a long life is becoming more of a reality.

"I feel that God was pretty good to me," says Bacon.  She feels that way because she beat the odds not once -- but twice.


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