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Friendships blossom amid cancer treatments
Selma Biart, right, and Clementine Ross pose together at Rocky Mountain Oncology Center in Casper, Wyo. The two cancer survivors met at the center and became friends while undergoing treatment.

CASPER - The day Clementine Ross and Selma Biart met, Ross was so sick that she could barely put on her clothes.

Biart sat in the corner of the chemotherapy room at Rocky Mountain Oncology Center receiving her treatment when Ross entered the room moaning and groaning loudly. Biart was sure this woman wasn't going to make it.

Ross saw Biart out of the corner of her eye.

"I'm sorry if I'm disturbing you," Ross said.

"I'll be praying for you," Biart said. She touched Ross' leg on her way out, never exchanging a name or phone number.

The two women didn't see each other for several months after that late-February encounter until they met again in the chemo room.

"Thank the Lord," Biart said when she saw Ross. "I've been looking for you in the obituaries."

Ross laughed and thought it was time the two cancer patients exchanged phone numbers.

The friendship the two women now share is one of the best things about cancer, they said.

"They say something good always comes of it," Biart said. "Cancer is such a horrible disease, but now I have some really good friends that I wouldn't have otherwise."

Without their positive attitudes and determination to help others with cancer, Ross and Biart might have let cancer and chemotherapy get the best of them.

Biart said her colon cancer diagnosis hit her "like a ton of bricks" in February. By the time doctors discovered it, it had already spread to her liver.

Ross was rediagnosed with breast cancer in November 2007. She first survived breast and ovarian cancer in 1978, when she was in her 30s. The cancer seems to have disappeared, but Ross has been receiving chemotherapy and radiation as a precaution.

It's been the best and worst year, Ross said.

"The good news, the very best, is the people I meet at oncology," Ross said. "I go up there and, you know, I am a people person and since I'm here all by myself, I make sure I stir up the crowd."

Ross always teases a man who receives chemotherapy for not sharing the delicious lunches his wife brings him. One time she overheard a couple discussing the woman's choice not to undergo treatment for her terminal cancer.

"These are the things that happen in that room," Ross said. "We don't see color, we don't see baldness. It's like family."

Knowing each others' names isn't always necessary.

Thanks to the chemotherapy room, Biart's head has been warm all winter despite her lack of hair. A woman gave Biart all her old hats, and Biart said once her hair grows back, she will give them to someone else.

Thanks to Biart and Ross, many cancer patients have found a friend in difficult times, even if just for a moment.

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Biart said her doctor, Dr. Keith Mills, who recently moved into his own office away from Rocky Mountain Oncology, has asked her on several occasions to talk to new, scared patients.

A positive attitude is "half the battle," Biart said.

Though Mills said her cancer will never be cured and she will most likely need chemotherapy the rest of her life, Biart said she is thankful for her quality of life.

She shrugs off her prognosis by saying, "But that's OK. I take it one day at a time."

Biart used this year to accomplish a lifelong dream of walking the 1.7 miles across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco - twice. She baked a birthday cake to celebrate Jesus' birthday.

Ross said she isn't quite sure why other people tell her she is encouraging. Maybe it's because she isn't afraid to talk to new people in the chemo room or tell the truth about cancer.

"I don't sugarcoat anything," Ross said.

Chemotherapy makes her very sick, and sometimes Ross has to stay in bed all day. Like everyone else, she has her good and bad days.

She sings in the Highland Park Community Church choir as often as possible and helped coordinate this year's Christmas performance.

"Cancer didn't take my heart," Ross said. "My emotions are all into this, and I am determined to help."

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