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Reams inspires, gives back to community
Saturday, December 29, 2012
By Wendy Lynn Brion Staff Writer
OSCEOLA MILLS - Occasionally in life you meet someone who inspires, faces challenges head on and seems to have the unique ability to roll with the punches life throws.
Ida Reams of Osceola Mills is one of those people. She might not think of herself as an inspiration, but to many people who know her, that word fits better than any other when describing her.
Reams was born at Niagara Falls, N.Y., but her family moved to Pennsylvania when she was six weeks old and she will readily tell you that she and her brothers and sisters grew up in a one-room shack with a dirt floor and an outhouse.
But while these humble beginnings might hold some people back, for Reams it was the grounds for the determination that shapes her life.
She grew up in Osceola Mills, forming lifelong friendships, and then took her determination to school where she became a highway bridge inspector for various consulting firms. In 2006, she changed careers and started working in the press office for the state Department of Transportation's District No. 2 office in Clearfield. Reams' love for her community and determination to give back came to the forefront during this time.
In 2001, at the age of 29, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She said she had an appointment with her doctor for something else and mentioned a lump she had found. The doctor did not think it was anything serious at first, but ran tests and they were surprised to find it was stage two cancer. Reams said they removed tumors and six lymph nodes from her right arm, three of which were bad. She then went through a round of chemotherapy and radiation.
When she received the diagnosis, Reams said she looked at her life and asked herself, "What have I done with it?" She decided she needed to get involved and help her community. One of the concerns she looked at was the need for a new sewer system in Osceola Mills.
With that in mind, Reams ran for and was elected to a seat on the borough council. She said that while she had attended a few meetings in the past, she didn't really know what to expect. For her first year she just sat and listened, learned and didn't make any motions.
Reams continued to serve on council for just more than 10 years, eventually becoming council president. She talked about some of the things the borough accomplished and worked through during that time. The first was the need for a new borough building because the one the borough was using on Edwards Street was not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The main floor was reached via a flight of stairs from the outside sidewalk, and the borough meeting room was on the second floor. Also at the time, the roof of the borough garage collapsed and council decided to use the insurance money to build a new garage and borough building and sell the old buildings.
A few years later the borough was able to get a grant from the state Department of Environ-mental Protection to convert an old gas station into a usable building, eventually leased to the community food bank, which had lost its former home. The borough accomplished this with the help of county commissioners, state officials and the community's support.
But the one thing dear to Reams' heart was the sewer system. She noted that both sewage and storm water emptied into what is known as a "wildcat" system, a system of pipes under the streets and homes of the borough that was virtually unmapped. The system was old and in many places collapsing and also emptied into Moshannon Creek, known as the Red Moshannon by many. The borough was under a mandate by DEP to build a new system and a treatment plant. Osceola Mills joined forces with Decatur and Rush townships to create the Osceola Mills, Rush and Decatur Townships Sewer Authority
Reams joined the board at the encouragement of a friend and also felt her experience with construction would be an asset. She added that at the same time the borough worked with the state Department of General Services to rebuild the canal running through the borough, which was delapidated and collapsing in places, in order to catch stormwater and deliver it to the creek.
Reams said the sewer system became her passion. The area was one of the largest unsewered areas in the state and she said she wanted to leave the community a better place for her children and grandchildren.
After her cancer treatment, Reams was told she would not be able to have any more children. She already had a son, James, at this time and accepted there wouldn't be more. To her vast surprise, she had her son Austin in 2003. She really thought he would be the last and had a procedure to prevent more pregnancies, but in 2005 she again found herself expecting and delivered daughter Emmy. "She's definately a miracle!" Reams remarked.
In 2009, Reams said she noticed that the area of her previous surgery looked odd with dimpling on the skin and she went back to her doctor for another biopsy.
The cancer had returned and this time she had to have a masectomy of her right breast. She said she and her family were surprised and a little bit scared, but she was determined to beat it again and after surgery she had chemotherapy and determined to have regular check ups.
Almost to add insult to injury, Reams also fell and broke her foot around that time, something which makes her laugh today. However, it became necessary for her to resign from her job at PennDOT.
Earlier this year, Reams returned to the doctor for a check up and four tumors were found along the scar of her masectomy. All were biopsied and, "They were all bad," Reams said.
She went to Pittsburgh this time and had 11 lymph nodes removed from her right arm and 13 from the left.
Seven from the right were cancerous and two on the left - and this time it was stage four cancer. Reams said they had to insert tubes in her arms because of this.
Reams made the difficult decision to resign from both the borough council and ORD Sewer Authority in April in order to concentrate on her treatment. Not long afterward, her colon ruptured, resulting in emergency surgery and a colostomy. She said the rupture had nothing to do with the cancer, it just happened at the same time.
"They didn't offer me much hope, "she said, but Reams said she was determined to fight. She said her family was scared but told her if anyone could beat it, it was her. She began a round of radiation for five weeks and chemotherapy. In October, she went in to have the colostomy reversed and said that was a success.
Recently, Reams went for a scan and no cancer was found.
The doctors want Reams to complete the chemotherapy, which she now has every third week, until June, and they will run another scan to determine if she is indeed cancer free.
"Not to brag, but I'm one of the strongest people I know, internally,," Reams remarked. She said she learned to roll with the punches.
"I think I'm going to beat it. I don't think God would give me these two little kids and not let me be here to raise them."
Reams is also overwhelmed and grateful for the love and support of her family and friends. She said she never knew how many people cared until this happened. "I never thought I would experience anything like it," she said, adding that one of the many surprises was a citation from the state House of Representatives for her service to the borough and sewer authority.
She also noted that her niece set up a fund at M&T Bank for people to donate to in order to help with medical expenses, under the Ida Lenora Reams benefit account.
As for the future, Reams says she doesn't look too far ahead. Her goal, she said, is to beat the cancer and then do as much positive for her family and community.
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