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Double Blessed

[ 5 ] December 31, 2013 |

By Faith L. Wylie, Co-publisher

How can one person be blessed with so many wonderful friends, co-workers and family members?

I have been overwhelmed by everyone’s support the last three months.

My adventure started in October with what appeared to be routine case of lymphoma, a very aggressive but curable form of cancer. I was to begin chemotheraphy on Nov. 7, backed by friends and prayer warriors.

Instead, that day we learned from the doctors that the PET scan had revealed a large malignant mass intruding on my brain and left eye in addition to all the cancerous lymph nodes. That changed everything.

I learned that chemo doesn’t work on the brain, and that lymphoma normally doesn’t destroy bone or attack the brain. The brain tumor pushed everything else to the back of the line.

Fearing a second form of cancer, we sought the help of a neurosurgeon and fellow KU alumni.

The day before Thanksgiving, Dr. Patrick Han removed 95 percent of a brain tumor that he described as a hurricane tearing up bone and tissue in a marathon five-and-a-half-hour surgery.

The initial pathology report was meningioma, a deadly form of brain cancer.

Thanks to the miracle of all your prayers, the final pathology a few days later revealed that the tumor was just a very aggressive lymphoma mass. I got my life back.

Amazingly, I seem to be able to think just as well as before. The tumor destroyed part of the left eye socket and muscles controlling the left eye, but Dr. Han gave me a beautiful scar the shape of a Mustang horseshoe. The feeling is slowly returning to the left side of my face.

We got through the Dec. 5 paper in amazingly good shape, thanks to advertisers and readers who allowed us to publish a day late.

We also got great support from the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, who took over our printing that week. We had decided to change printers a month before—before the crisis developed—and Chris Rush and his staff were absolutely wonderful. We have been so impressed with the crisp, clean printing results. And our staff loves that their hands aren’t all black on Wednesday after labeling and distributing the Leader.

The next week, however, wasn’t so easy. That ugly six-page paper that we produced on Dec. 12 is probably the toughest paper I’ve every done.

I stopped in Dr. Sam Stauffer’s office on Monday of that week to complain about shortness of breath. He sent me to St. John Owasso and on to Big John. Nasty cancer fluid had filled the sacks around my lungs, squeezing out the space for oxygen. My new best friends, Tamara and Jason, drained a liter of fluid from around my right lung on Tuesday and 1.3 liters around my left lung on Wednesday.

We have a wonderful staff that writes the news, takes the photos and sells the ads. But I’m the graphic designer who pulls it all together into the final product. Carolyn brought my laptop to the hospital Tuesday and I somehow managed to produce that ugly paper.

With the lymphoma in aggressive assault, the doctors moved up my first chemo from Dec. 19 to Dec. 16. On the heels of our six-page debacle, the staff had to bring together our Christmas issue two days early.

Again, our advertisers and readers came through. Tim Carman, our circulation person, shot over 100 pictures of the Christmas Parade to fill out the pages.

The issue was truly a Christmas miracle.

Hopefully this issue will be a good start for the New Year and a nice transition into my new reality.

I have survived my first chemo. In order to attack both the traditional lymphoma and the brain tumor, I get a traditional chemo treatment followed by an injection of chemotherapy into my spinal fluid.

This will happen every three weeks for about six months.

About a week after each chemo treatment, my white blood cell count will be very low, so I must stay away from the germs of the general public. My plan is to work from home those days. My goal is to cut my hours in half, from 60 to 30, so that I have plenty of time for recovery.

If I do run into you in town, please understand that I love hugs, but my body doesn’t love germs right now. Just give me a mental hug or a squeeze on the shoulder.

In June, we will probably switch to radiation therapy to clean up any stubborn spots.

After the cancer is all gone, I can have surgery to repair the bone and muscle around my left eye so I am not a Cyclops any more. My personal goal is to be cured by next Christmas.

The new reality means that we will be especially appreciative of our readers who can submit feature photos and story ideas. Well-written press releases from clubs and churches are wonderful. Other staff members will be picking up some of my duties, so any help you can give them is a boost for me.

For the first time since we purchased the Leader in 1984, we will not enter the Better Newspaper Contest. This year, it’s more important to get the newspaper published than to win a few ego strokes and more plaques that won’t fit on the walls of our office.

My thank you column has digressed into an account of the last three months, I fear.  But let me close with my thanks to all.

Our staff has been wonderful. Carolyn Estes, our marketing director, is always incredible. Chris Edens, our city editor, has worked with crazy deadlines and put in extra hours. In fact, both of them came in last week during their Christmas vacation to help me get a head start on this week’s newspaper. Vickie Hefner has taken on extra duties at the same time that her new granddaughter was in the neonatal ICU. Tim Carman has revealed his hidden talents as a photographer. He executes our new webcasting project. I hope that we have more time in the coming sports season for that project to shine.

Then, there are the folks who’ve made sure we have food to eat. We’ve received multiple meals or treats from Jan Miller, Judy Lowther, Lucy Carman and Terri Stewart. Lance Houghtling smoked us a ham for Christmas dinner.

Donna Newcomb made me a wonderful assortment of caps for the coming cold, bald winter.

I’ve received inspirational books from Ben Williams, Stephanie Hoskin and Peggy Rice.

Scottie Holton even painted a special picture for my sick room.

We’ve gotten rides from Carolyn Estes, Tim Carman, Toney and Melinda Foster and my sister Dawn Kester.

Speaking of family, mine is the best.

My husband John has always believed that I could do anything, and he continues that amazing support of my efforts.

Dawn has kept me company through countless medical tests and procedures, including my first 11-hour chemo outing.

My son, James, and his wife, Alison, gave up their Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to sit with me.

Alison spent Thanksgiving Eve and Day with me in the ICU after the brain surgery. James took me toSt. Johnto have my lungs drained again right before Christmas. The two of them spend Christmas Eve and Day cleaning my barf basin and bringing a cool cloth for my face.

The kids put up the Christmas tree, did laundry, cleaned house and filled my freezer with meals for the coming weeks.

The medical personnel have also been amazing. Physician Assistant Tod Estes caught the initial diagnosis. Dr. Stauffer is my go-to guy any time I can’t understand what’s going on. I visit him, then he deals with the specialists and explains it all to me.

Dr. Scott McHam and nurse practitioner Julie Spears are my main cancer experts. Tamara and Jason in the interventional radiology department at Big John are my heroes. I go in unable to breath and leave with air in my lungs again.

Most of all, I want to thank everyone who has offered words of encouragement and prayer. Some days, I have been too tired or too depressed to pray. Knowing that you were standing in the gap for me has been a great comfort.

Category: Opinion

Comments (5)

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  1. Timothy Beauchamp says:

    Dear Faith:

    You continue to be an inspiration to the entire community. Continued prayers for recovery.

  2. Laura Hockaday says:

    You are incredible!! The personification of guts and bravery. You and John are invincible and an inspiration to all who know you.
    Much love,

  3. Wow, Faith. Thank you for that much needed dose of perspective about my petty gripes and complaints. That you have and are enduring this nightmare with such grace and gratitude, while still getting the newspaper out each week, is an inspiration to the rest of us in community newspaper crazyland. Prayers and virtual hugs from the Reids, a fellow newspaper family at the Kingfisher Times & Free Press.

    • Leader says:

      Thanks for the encouragement and support. It does put things in perspective when one has a brush with mortality.