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First Lady Makes No Mention of Health During Anti-Drug Appearance

October 16, 1987

SOMERSWORTH, N.H. (AP) _ First lady Nancy Reagan made no mention of her health problems during a brief visit to New Hampshire on Friday, instead offering young people a new way to prevent drug-related health problems of their own.

″This is the kickoff of our campaign to bring foster grandparents into the fight against drugs,″ she said. ″Our plan is to bring those who care so much together with those who need such caring and love.″

Mrs. Reagan was the main speaker at a statewide conference of foster grandparents, and used the event to tie the program to her national crusade to help young people stay away from drugs.

When word came from Washington that Mrs. Reagan would enter the hospital for breast cancer tests, she was leaving the conference. She smiled to a reporter who wished her well on the tests, but did not comment.

She had made no public mention of her health during the one-hour visit. Shireen Tilley, executive director of the Friends Program, which sponsored the conference, said the first lady said nothing privately either.

″Nothing,″ she said. ″She carried on very graciously. She put on a brave front and a warm gracious one.″

Even after the news broke, Mrs. Reagan concentrated on the people who had come to see her. ″She spent a lot of time signing autographs, hugging children and kissing them,″ Tilley said.

Later, Tilley went to the podium to tell the foster grandparents the news.

″Everybody was pretty upset and just amazed that she had been there,″ she said. ″They were awed that she had been able to carry on so well with that emotional burden on her.

″Everyone was touched,″ Tilley said. ″There were some tears. I was very choked up.″

Mrs. Reagan will undergo tests for breast cancer on Saturday and will have her left breast removed if doctors confirm preliminary evidence of malignancy, the White House said Friday.

The White House said Mrs. Reagan would enter Bethesda Naval Hospital after returning from New Hampshire and doctors would conduct a biopsy of the ″suspicious area″ of her left breast on Saturday.

Before her New Hampshire speech, Mrs. Reagan met with a small group of foster grandparents and school children.

″Have all of you been approached about drugs?″ she asked.

″I have a couple times and I didn’t even talk to them,″ said Thomas Mailhot, 17, of Rochester. ″I just turned away.″

″You just said ‘No,’ ″ Mrs. Reagan said, prompting laughter by finding a way to use her national anti-drug slogan, ″Just say no.″

She said the foster grandparent program can help teens say no by giving them someone to talk to about their problems.

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