by Teresa Santiago
Edith DiCarmine, 78 has lived in Mahopac for over 45 years and in the same home for 42. She raised 18 foster children and adopted 4 of them 2 brothers and 2 sisters. She was unable to have children of her own but her life was dedicated to being a foster mom, nurturing, caring and loving children that so desperately needed her. It was not easy and she has gone through many challenges and heart breaks in her life, the most devastating the murder of her son Christopher, but she has persevered and has come out stronger in the process.
So when Edith one evening getting ready for bed felt a lump in her breast she thought “oh that’s not good.” She immediately saw a doctor to confirm her finding then a surgeon. She was diagnosed with an advanced stage breast cancer in 2010. For the past three year, Edith has been battling the cancer which has reoccurred 4 different times. She received three operations to remove the malignant mass and lymph nodes. She has undergone several rounds of chemotherapy and was scheduled to begin another round of chemotherapy in late October early November.
On October 29th Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast of the United States with 90 miles an hour gale force winds, flooding, and heavy rain. Edith’s area was hit hard, the road leading to her home and her drive way became a fast rising and flowing river, washing away cars, pavement, and trees and leaving behind deep muddy craters, uneven earth, and big rocks varying in size.
“In the 45 years I have lived in this area I had never seen anything like it. It looked like the surface of the moon with deep holes all over my driveway and front lawn,” remembered Edith. “I was stranded I could not get out.”
The time came for Edith to start her chemotherapy. Her car was at the mechanic because it was damaged. Several volunteers from her church came to take her to her appointments but could not get up the road or the drive way because of the severe damages sustained so she did not go to her chemo appointments. Her church friends came to bring her food and spend time with her but the visit was cut short when they got stuck in one of the craters for hours a tow-truck had to be called to get them out.
Edith was finally able to get her car back from the mechanic but had to park on the makeshift street. Finding herself with no groceries, feeling sick and very weak after chemo and with no help she decided to go to the supermarket on her own. When she arrived home exhausted she parked her car and preceded to, carefully climb up the driveway looking out for the holes. It had snowed and rained and the path was very icy and slippery. She finally got about halfway to her door when she fell spilling her groceries all over the driveway. She tried 2 more times to get up but kept falling. She crawled on her hands and knees until she couldn’t anymore. She began to yell as hard as she could for someone to help her but no one came.
Meanwhile in her next door neighbor’s house Molly their dog was becoming very restless, barking and running from the door to her master. Her owner could not understand why she was so agitated. The dog bit into his pant leg and pushed and nudged him towards the door to go outside. It was then that her neighbor heard Edith’s faint but desperate call for help. When he finally got to her about half hour later her hands, legs and face were blue from the cold and she was developing frostbite. He helped her up and carried her into her home. He then picked up her groceries and brought them inside. “Molly wagged her tail as Edith thanked her and her master for the helped they had given her.
A few days after this incident Edith was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, the chemo this time around was doing more harm than good. She spent weeks in the hospital. The chemo was suspended. “The chemotherapy affected me terribly. I lost my bottom teeth, part of my eyesight, hearing and my hair, remembers Edith. “The doctors took away the chemo and waited for my body to recuperate before I began radiation therapy.”
In early April Edith called the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA representatives came out and inspected the damage and they referred her to Catholic Charities. A few days later Edith met Christine McCormack, Catholic Charities’ Disaster Case Manager, Catholic Charities Community Services, Archdiocese of NY.
Ms. McCormack provided her gift cards for food and immediately began a recovery plan that includes the reconstruction her driveway. Ms. McCormack researched and identified pavement and construction companies to get estimates. She has received estimates for the work on Edith’s driveway which will include much needed drains in front of the garage to avoid future flooding. A decision on which company to use has not been made yet however Ms. McCormack has outreached to several Catholic Charities partners to assist with underwriting the cost of the driveway repair including the United Way of Westchester and Putnam County, which has committed $6,000 to $8000 to go toward the repairs with Catholic Charities contributing the remaining amount. Edith also received $600 from FEMA which will also be used.
“Ms. DiCarmine has gone through a very difficult time. She is very frail because of the breast cancer and the chemo treatment but don’t let that fool you. She is a very independent person with great faith. My main concern was to make sure she was safe, getting to the hospital for treatment and beginning the search for a company that would do the work and the resources to pay for it,” recalls Ms. McCormack. “With our Catholic Charities partners and resources I am confident that Edith will have her driveway completed in a couple of months before the winter starts.”
“Christine has been an inspiration to me. She is such a caring person. She is a super, super, super star, in my life. I wish I had met her many years ago. I have learned a lot about myself with Christine about staying positive and not giving up,” recalls Edith.
In the middle of August Edith received great news, a clean bill of health. Her cancer is in remission.“You were a very, very sick lady. We almost lost you a few times,” Edith recalls the doctor telling her. “But after several serious operations, three rounds of chemotherapy that almost killed me, radiation therapy, and Hurricane Sandy, I have survived. I am still here!”
“I am not a Catholic, I was raised Baptist and I am a born again Christian. I have been a member of the Red Hills Baptist Church for over four decades. My church family has been very, very strong in their prayers and faith that I would get better,” says Edith. “At first I was a little apprehensive that Catholic Charities would not assist me because I was not Catholic but that is so far from the truth. They help anyone and everyone in need because we are all God’s children. I don’t know what I would have done without Christine, Catholic Charities and my church family. I would have been lost,” said a grateful and emotional Edith.