...You are the Wind Beneath My Wings
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History of Faye's Ovarian Cancer
Overview:

Faye was born on June 18, 1939 in Ruleville, Mississippi, the eldest of three children of Leonard J. and Christine Welch. Some years later the family moved to Houston, Texas. In 1956 I was stationed at Ellington Air Force Base near Houston. We met in December of 1956 through a mutual friend. It did not take us long to realize that we had fallen deeply in love, and after she graduated from Milby High School in May, we were married on August 16, 1957.

By this time, Faye was working at Sears & Roebuck in Houston. My Air Force career took us to many places and Faye would often transfer from Sears store to Sears store, as she enjoyed working. Three children were born to us, two boys and a girl, all very much adults now, with their own families. Eventually, we would settle down in San Antonio, Texas, where I retired from the Air Force and went to work in the civilian market. Faye continued working for Sears, where she developed many wonderful and lasting friendships, as she had at other Sears stores. We enjoyed our life together, very much in love, sharing a special friendship between us that we both cherished. We were to be blessed, eventually, with seven grandchildren. In 1997, we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary, as our children put on a surprise party for us. Many of our friends and family came to pay their respects to us. By this time, ovarian cancer was greatly taking its toll on Faye.

History of her illness:

In the fall of 1995, Faye started to experience problems that she attributed to going through the change of life, unknown to me until much later. She, not accustomed to complaining, kept these problems to herself, even during a trip to the East Coast to visit my brothers. Upon our return, she commenced experiencing increases in weight, and a bloating of her body making it appear as though she were pregnant. She was also experiencing back pains (nothing really uncommon for her due to a previous back surgery years before) and other difficulties. After much persistence by me, family and friends, she agreed to go see medical personnel regarding this problem. They commenced treating her for what they thought were bowel blockage problems, but the treatments did nothing to alleviate her pain and suffering.

We went on a scheduled trip to Cancun the last of November, 1995, even though she was not in good health. We were very much looking forward to this trip, our first to Cancun and did not want to cancel it. Though ever the trooper, it became readily apparent that there was something seriously wrong with Faye. She had little rest, or comfort on the trip, and could not really enjoy it. When we returned we again sought medical attention for her, this time with a doctor specializing in gynecological problems. After running some specific tests, they informed us about the first week of December 1995 that they suspected that Faye had developed ovarian cancer. This was a severe blow to both of us.. The department head of oncology informed us, that with our permission, he desired to perform a hysterectomy on her as quickly as possible, for by all indications, she was already in Stage 3C of the disease. The disease has four stages, with Stages 1 and 2 the lesser and 3 and 4 bringing almost certain death.

We consented, and the surgery was performed a few days later. After the surgery was completed her doctor came to me in the waiting room, and took me outside. He informed me that there was such a cancer mass across the lower area of her stomach that they were not able to even see the necessary organs to be extracted. The cancer mass had completely shielded them and to go further probably would mean certain death for her. He also informed me that he gave her a 50/50 chance of surviving just a few days in ICU. He was counting on her physical condition and mental toughness to pull her through. This, of course, came as a great shock to me. She had asked us not to hide anything from her regarding her cancer, so, in due time, while in ICU, she was informed of his medical opinion. She vowed to prove him wrong by being back in her room on Christmas Day.

My family has a stong belief in God, and there was much prayer for her as we stood around her bed in ICU. Prayer requests for her poured out to friends, family and business associates during this time period. Later, I found that prayers were being said for her all across this country, spread by friends, and family through their churches and the use of voice mail.. I began to receive reports of prayer groups being formed for her in foreign countries, in Europe, Africa, and South America, Australia, etc. It was truly amazing!

Due to these prayers, Faye's strong will to live, positive motivation, and care of the ICU nurses, and the love of her family, Faye found herself back in her room on Christmas Day, much to the surprise of her Oncology and ICU staff! She appeared to be headed for a series of chemotherapy treatments intended to put her cancer into remission. However, on January 1st, 1996, when the Chief of Staff of Oncology came to take out her stitches, he was shocked to see that she had contacted a disease called Necrotizing Faceitous, an inflammation under the skin that was eating away at it. He went into STAT mode, had her taken to the emergency surgery room immediately, after informing the family that she had a life threatening infection that would almost surely end her life if action were not taken now.

On January 1st, I found myself and family members waiting for word on her condition. For the second time, our doctor had to tell us very bad news, that, in his medical opinion, although they had been able to cut out the infecton, she would only have something slightly better than a zero percent chance to live in ICU for a day or two. To kill the infection, he had to cut out a football sized and shaped area of infected skin, and "fat pack" from her stomach area. She had an oval shaped area cut out from below her breast bone to above the pubic bone. We came to call it her "football". This area was covered with a temporary covering, later a rubber one called gortex, to protect it. This material is similar to what raincoats are made of. Most people were unaware of this. After much crying, we galvanized the "prayer warriors" into action again, and many, many prayers were sent heavenward in her name. The period of time in January, 1996 was very critical. However, the medical and ICU staff were very much aware that God was working in our and their lives. They observed the many prayer sessions held around her bed. Because of our faith, they rallied around us, and gave her all their medical and spiritual support although many of them gave her little or no chance for survival.

During the middle of January, the 17th, if I have the date correct, I was later told by the head ICU nurse that he had expected her to expire that night because her natural life support functions were all failing her. He was close to calling her doctor for advice when he noticed later in the early morning hours that there had been a sudden upturn of events! It was not until several months later, in a quiet, private conversation with Faye, that I found out why.

As Faye and I talked about that time period, she told me of an amazing event that occurred that night, as she lay in her bed near death. Sometime during those early morning hours, as she lay awake and alone in her ICU bed, a bright, shimmering light wandered into her cubicle and shown down upon her for some time, the period of time she was not able to estimate. I asked her if it could have possibly been the overhead light and she told me that it was not, for it was off. She also said she was totally aware of what was happening. A voice spoke to her in her mind and told her not to be afraid for she would not die. Then, as suddenly as the light had appeared, it faded away and wandered out of her room. She went to sleep, peacefully knowing that regardless of what her medical team told her, it was not her destiny to die just yet. Apparently, the Lord had a useful purpose for her life to continue. We know now that it was in the area of providing faith, belief, and the desire to live in other people experiencing the same or similar problems in their lives.

It soon became apparent that God was using her to encourage others to rekindle the belief in Him and His will. I received many telephone calls, cards, letters, and voice mail messages telling me of the things that were happening in others lives because of Faye's strong beliefs, motivation and strength. I had other cancer victims tell me that because of her, they had decided not to give up the battle and would continue on in their own struggle against this dreaded disease.

During the next month or so, she experienced two other setbacks that nearly took her life. Faye had been a smoker for many years. Although encouraged by me, our children and grandchildren, to stop smoking, she found it impossible to do so. She was able to cut back some, however. She had developed a weakness in her lungs that was to cause complications in her recovery. Twice she experienced respiratory difficulties and two more times her head doctor told us that he did not expect her to recover. Later, after the fourth time, when she had recovered, he told her, as a jest he was not going to tell her she was not going to live because she was ruining his reputation!

By March she was out of the hospital and back home! For several months she slept in a hospital bed in the den and I slept on the couch next to her to care for her during the night. She required a considerable amount of care, which slowly diminished as Summer approached. I became her home health care provider, along with home health care nurses who came by regularily to check on her and my care for her. I changed her bandages, and did whatever needed to be done to properly care for her in the absence of the nurses. Our only daughter became greatly involved in her care also. It was a godsend that she lives close by. Eventually, Faye would go through a skin graft procedure over that stomach area in hopes it would be successful. She said that the pain on her outer thigh where the skin graft was taken from was worse than that from the operation. The graft was effective only in the top area. It failed in the lower area due to the cancer not allowing that area to heal properly.

However, one day in August, of 1996, I came home from work to find the hospital bed gone, and all the accoutrements with it! She had called up the medical supply company and had them come get it all! She told me that she was sleeping with me that night! I was amazed, surprised and pleased. She continued into chemotherapy, of one type or another, with some results. However, the cancer would soon find a way to build immunity to the treatment she was undergoing and would start growing again. Most people did not know how sick the chemotherapy made her or how badly it suppressed her appetite. She always tried to put up a good front so people would not know just how badly she was feeling. During 1996, she did regain some of her strength, which allowed her to get out, and do more. After Thanksgiving, we found ourselves back in Cancun again! She had a very enjoyable time, as we leisurely did many of the things we could not do the last time. She thoroughly enjoyed herself on this trip, shopping and sightseeing.

Christmas, 1996 was wonderful, for we had her home with us. She enjoyed it so much. She was chomping at the bit to get her strength back, and go back to work. She did realize her goal of returning to work in 1997 for a period of time. She was welcomed back with open arms. She was so loved and missed by her co-workers. However, it soon became apparent to her that she no longer had the strength to work a 40 hour week. Various courses of chemotherapy had been undertaken, some more successful than others. Eventually though, CA-125 tests, and/or sonograms (TVS) tests would show the cancer to be on the rise again, causing re-evaluation of her conditions, and recommendations of different treatments. After some months of trying to work, she accepted medical retirement in September, 1997 and went home to enjoy a life of leisure spent with those of our grandchildren who live in the area.

During the summer of 1997 something occurred that would greatly effect her chances for survival. The cancer mass was more prevalent in the bottom area of her stomach. Because the skin in that area was so thin, a small section of her small bowel broke through the skin, causing a stoma which started draining. We made an emergency trip to the hospital so her doctors could create a plan of attack against this latest problem. It was determined that it was not possible to operate on it, for fear of infection, and the possible ending of her life. We were put under the care of a wonderful Wound and Ostomy technician. He developed the specialized techniques and procedures that would be used to care for that area.

Because he only worked the day shift, and there were no other trained technicians available, he trained me in the caring of her ostomy system and wound. He cared for her during the day, as required, and I at night, in the hospital or at home. Later, another wonderful Wound and Ostomy Technician would come into our lives to continue my training. Caring for her wound and ostomy was an exasperating situation for you never knew if the ostomy system would remain intact for an hour or so, or several days, the latter which is what we hoped for. I was up all hours of the night, caring for her as needed. It soon became apparent, after weeks of doing this, that I was going to need additional assistance. I trained my daughter to assist me, since she was often there with Faye during the daytime while I was working. She did a wonderful job of caring for her, while pregnant with our only grandson, and after his delivery. We made many, many trips to the doctors office at the hospital because it became apparent we were loosing the battle. She could not keep enough liquid or food in her to keep up her strength. Chemotherapy and her disease often robbed her of her desire to eat. As a result, she lost weight, after gaining much of it back in 1996 and early 1997.

Her medical staff recommended that she be put on IV care at home in an attempt to help keep up electrolyte levels, which were often deficient. So, my daughter and I became specialists in the care and administering of IV and PIC Line care out of necessity. We became very good at it, although it was apparent that this new problem facing us was not only a very draining one for Faye, but on us also. We continued the good fight against this insidious disease into October, 1997.

We had promised good friends of ours from times when we had been stationed in Colorado Springs, that we would be there for their daughters wedding. Faye had planned this October trip long in advance, so when the day arrived, off we went on a flight to Colorado, loaded with IV's and medical supplies. It soon became apparent that we were going to experience difficulties in keeping an ostomy system in place. Apparently, the higher altitude and change in air pressure was giving us fits. I spent much of my time, at all hours of the day and night, changing out the system and caring for the wound, even right before the wedding! But Faye had a great time! She enjoyed helping decorate the reception hall the evening before, and enjoyed herself immensely.

In December, 1997, things took a turn for the worse. Her weight had dropped drastically, down to less than 100 pounds. All chemotherapies had been administered that were available to her. It was apparent from CA-125, catscans, and other tests that the cancer had finally gained the upper hand. Considerable conversations had been held with our medical staff regarding quality of life issues. Faye let them know that SHE would never give up, that she was going to fight this to the end. It was decided by her medical staff to place a G tube back into her body to assist with feeding and drainage. Early in her recovery she had both a G and an N tube, so this was nothing new to her. It did mean another collection bag to contend with. During this time, she was out and about, finishing off her Christmas shopping in a wheel chair! She was determined that she would not let her problems stop her. However, we were having a terrible time of keeping her electrolytes balanced which eventually led to an early morning dash to the hospital. She stayed overnight, as the staff got her electrolytes balanced again, and was sent back home. On the 23rd of December, she experienced a breathing problem which almost ended her life.

Quick action by EMS personnel, and a short run to the hospital is what saved it. She was rushed into the emergency room where all necessary action was taken to save her life. Her medical staff knew her wishes, knew that she was not going to quit on them, and they were determined not to quit. After a few hours, she was taken to ICU where she was close to death for a number of days. With a respirator tube down her throat, again, the only way to communicate with us, as she had done in December, 1995 through February, 1996, was by writing us notes. She was a prolific note writer, and in this manner, she was able to advise her ICU, and medical staff, and family as to her needs and desires. Again, the medical staff talked with us about quality of life issues, but Faye was adamant that she would not agree to go to a Hospice facility, and that she would overcome this.

During this period, as she lay close to death between Christmas, 1997 and New Years, she was visited by Angels. She told us, on several occasions, through her writings, that there were 10 Angels around her, that she had seen God, that the Angels had shown her heaven, and that it was beautiful. She told me on several occasions that she was ready to go. At times she would wave her hands in the air. When we asked her what she was doing, she would tell us in writing that she was flying with the Angels. She was very lucid, and knew everything that was going on around her. During one visit, my son-in-laws father visited us. He is our family minister, a kind and wonderful man. He has been a minister for many years, and he led us in prayer over Faye, as he had done many times before. During this time, she wrote that she wanted to sing religious songs. He asked her what her favorite songs were, and as she listed them on paper, he looked them up in his hymnal, and we would sing them. There were about 14 songs in all. She would do her best to sing along with us, but mostly would direct us in our singing with her hands. It was the most moving experience I have ever had! Those songs became the ones that were sung, and played at her funeral a few weeks later.

During this time in ICU we were blessed with our own set of Angels. God had sent human "Angels" to care for her it seemed. Many of the staff professed privately to us that they were devout Christians caring for Faye. They often prayed over her when they were in her room administering to her. To the surprise of many, she was out of ICU and back on a ward after New Years. She spent a week or so there, spending time with friends, family, and her grandchildren. We hoped that she was on her way back to recovery once again, but that was not to be the case this time.

It was determined that she had contacted pneumonia. Although we thought it was under control, it was not. It was also determined by her medical staff that they could do no more for her there, and to move her to a small hospital specializing in recovery and rehabilitation. We made that move shortly before the 12th of January, only to have to make an emergency ambulance run to a local hospital. It was feared by the doctor that she was bleeding internally. It was quickly determined once there, that the blood was coming from around her stoma. Since I had my ostomy supplies with me, and there was no ostomy technician on duty, I treated her, and changed out her system, as I had done so many times before. We eventually took her back to the hospital she had come from.

She spent a few days there, in relative peace, and quiet, with friends, and family. On Saturday, January 10th, she was fairly lively, talking, and enjoying herself as best she could. However, the staff had told us privately that she would not last but for a few days to a week or so. On Sunday, January 11th, she was quiet, enjoying rest, sleeping at an angle in the bed that we tried to correct. She let us know that she was enjoying a comfortable rest, and not to move her. We went home that night with no indication she would pass away. Her nurses cared for her several times that night, and again at 1am on January 12th. She was alive, and peaceful. At 2am, January 12th, she was gone, having died from the pneumonia that had taken ahold of her. Her nurse told me later that she had passed away with a peaceful smile on her face. She knew she had fought the good fight, knew where she was going, and had left to join her Beloved Jesus, and his Angels in Heaven.

Funeral services were held on January 15th, with interment at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetary following the services. Many, many of her family, and friends from all walks of life were in attendance to pay their final respects to a kind, generous, gentle woman, with a strong will to live, who would not quit through any adversity. She remains much loved, and touched by those she came in contact with.

This website is in memory of all the above, and more. It is, in my own small way, an attempt to educate women, and their families, to the dangers of this insidious disease, which is often not detected until it is in Stage 3 or later. This often is too late. Please review the symptoms of this disease, and take immediate action if you recognize any or many of them in your own body. Please review any measures that can be taken to help prevent this disease from attacking your body, and your family.

You will see that Angels, eagles, owls, and yellow roses adorn her webpage. Faye loved them, and collected them. She was truly a Yellow Rose of Texas, long to be remembered by those who loved her.

With the Greatest Love, and Respect,
Her Loving Husband,

Ray Clark


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