Gruesome Knitting Impalement Uncovers Lethal Threat

Near-fatal needle impalement turns out to be blessing; X-rays show hidden cancer

July 13, 2009, 1:52 PM

July 14, 2009 -- An unthinkable setback can be a blessing in disguise. No one knows that better than 58-year-old Ellin Klor. For her, a cosmic roll of the dice worked in wonderful ways.

On an otherwise normal Monday in January 2006, Klor joined her knitting club at a friend's house in Palo Alto, Calif.

"I was carrying the bag with the two needles in my right hand ... and tripped on the first step and sort of fell on my chest, on her porch," said Klor. "And I stood up and felt more or less OK, but I noticed that I had a pain in my chest whenever I took a breath."

Watch "20/20" FRIDAY at 10 p.m. ET to see Klor's story.

Klor picked up her bags and went inside her friend's home. Before long the pain in her chest became impossible to ignore.

"I put everything down and lifted up my sweater and my shirt and looked down and saw this broken knitting needle sticking out of my chest," Klor said. "And someone said, 'should we pull it out?' And I said, 'no, call 911.'"

That small decision may have saved Klor's life. Her doctor, Susan Brundage, said the needle pierced Klor's heart, and had she pulled the needle out of her chest, she may have bled to death.

"I asked her when she was outside the operating room, 'How did you know that?' said Brundage. "And she said, 'Well, I watch 'ER,' and on 'ER' they said never pull anything out that's stuck in your body.'"

Klor was rushed to Stanford University Hospital, where doctors worked on her for five hours. In an intricate operation, they removed the needle and sewed up Klor's heart. She had survived an incredibly random accident, it seemed.

But Klor's story doesn't end there. Ten days later, she got a call from the hospital, where a technician has been reviewing an X-ray from a follow-up test.

The news was devastating. The technician had discovered an enlarged lymph node on the right side of Klor's body. Soon, Klor was diagnosed with breast cancer.

'I'm the Luckiest,' Says Knitting Needle Victim

She was shocked. "It was like the other shoe had dropped," she said. "It was really incredible to get that kind of news after I had just survived almost dying."

Klor decided to remain optimistic and fight the cancer.

"In the weeks that followed ... the fact that I survived the knitting needle accident was a real source of strength to me," said Klor. "I could say to myself, 'You survived a knitting needle and you'll get through this too. You didn't die from that, and you're not going to die from this."

Over the next few weeks, Klor was subjected to a round of tests to determine how far her cancer had spread. The more lymph nodes involved, the worse the diagnosis would be.

Klor was informed that cancer had been found in only one lymph node. She was thrilled at the news.

"I'm screaming, 'I'm the luckiest person in the world! I'm so lucky! I can't believe it, I'm so lucky!'" she said.

After enduring eight rounds of chemotherapy and a grueling recovery process, today she is cancer-free -- thanks in part to what seemed at first to be a terrible twist of fate.

"It is an incredible thing," she said. "To have something that almost took your life end up saving your life."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events