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Optimism levels a rough road

Beth Lowell had been driving her brand-new Volkswagen Beetle convertible only nine days in 2006 when she was hit by a drunken driver in an SUV on the eastbound Youngmann Highway near Main Street.

"He then went over the top of my car and landed on the 290 westbound, overturned," Lowell recalled. "I spun like a cue ball and crashed into the guardrail. I thought a plane had landed on my car. It was horrific."

A state trooper told her she "shouldn't have survived."

She did, but was severely injured. She had her neck surgically fused, underwent hip surgery and an operation on both knees.

Lowell said she was left "a mess and terrified to drive."

The crash, which caused $17,000 in damage to her car, also reinjured her jaw -- dislocated when she was rear-ended in a crash the year before on the I-90.

This has not been Lowell's luckiest decade.

Add to the list a cancerous lump found on her breast in March 2007 and the end of long-term relationship. "I describe my life the last three years as living in a blender on 'whip.' I had no control over any part of my life."

Since then, however, things have changed.

"I've shut the blender off now, and life is good -- I'm back in control," she said.

As a special-education teacher in Clarence, Lowell has witnessed the struggles of her students over the years and is aware that too often, life is not fair.

Yet when she became ill, Lowell said she found a "huge support system that got me through."

"My last day at work, before the mastectomy," she said, "every teacher, student and staff member wore pink. They had pink ribbons on every door in the building at Harris Hill Elementary. My room was filled with pink flowers and balloons."

"My Harris Hill family has treated me with so much love and concern. My neighbors were also a big help, along with my own immediate and extended family."

She also got a bit of good news.

"Going into surgery, the doctors had told me I was at a stage 3," Lowell recalled. "After surgery, it turned out to be two stage 1 tumors on top of each other -- much better prognosis."

Lowell, who went for reconstructive surgery, said she was driven "to get through this, and heal as quickly as possible."

"I'm telling you -- positive thinking works," she said. "I made the decision to be in the best shape, and happiest that I've ever been."

She also said she wanted to teach her two daughters a life lesson by keeping "an upbeat and positive attitude."

"I have to set the bar for them and show them how to handle all the curve balls that life throws at us," she said. "I gained a whole new sense of confidence from all of this."

Even when that curve ball turns out to be a cue ball.

Have an idea about a local person whose life would make a good profile or a neighborhood issue worth exploring?

e-mail lcontinelli@buffnews.com

Or write to: Louise Continelli,Sunday Profile,The Buffalo News,P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 142401

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