Laughter Lights Up Her Life

Some people have a way of finding humor even in the hardest times. Beth is one of those people.

Beth is no stranger to suffering. She lost both of her children when they were in their 30’s. She broke her back in a car accident that left her partially paralyzed with eleven bolts and a seven-inch rod in her back. Determined to walk again, Beth is now mobile with the aid of a walker, which she affectionately calls “Sylvia.”

With her infectious smile and quick sense of humor, you would never guess that Beth had faced these tremendous difficulties in her life. The 68-year-old became a fast friend to almost everyone at Fair Haven when she stayed for more than three weeks while her husband was hospitalized. In the evenings after she returned from the hospital, you’d often find Beth in the living area enjoying a late-night chat with her new friend Rhoda, another guest at Fair Haven whose husband was also battling cancer. Beth said that she loves the maxim that Rhoda shared with her: “Better to be better than bitter. I don’t want to be bitter.

“I miss my children every day, but they’re with me all the time. I can hear my daughter going…,” and Beth rolls her eyes and makes a funny face, imitating her daughter.

Beth came to Fair Haven from Louisville, Kentucky, over two hours and 135 miles away, when her husband, Walter, consulted a specialist at the IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“He always had acid reflux,” she shared, “but it got worse.” The doctors near her home ran some tests and told him he had esophageal cancer and that he only had 18 months to live.

“I said to him, ‘Well, Bud, there are two things you need to do right now. It’s a must. You have to get right with God because you’re mad at him.’ Because our kids passed away 17 months apart. And I told him he also had to change his crummy attitude.

“That was four years ago. He’s still here.”

She claims one Louisville physician was their “guiding light.” He told Walter that he should try getting his esophagus frozen but said that the procedure isn’t performed in Kentucky.

“Walter asked, ‘Well, where do I go to have it done?’” recalls Beth. “I said, Oh, I know! Let’s go to Hawaii!”

Laughing, she says, “We came to Indianapolis instead.”

Their oncologist’s first question to them when they arrived was, “Why hasn’t your cancer been removed?” Walter had been told doctors don’t typically perform surgery on stage 4 esophageal cancer patients. But only four weeks later, Walter was prepped for surgery at IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center. He asked his surgeon to take care of him and help give him back his quality of life.

“And she did,” explains Beth. “She got all of the cancer.”

The invasive surgery consisted of an esophagectomy, which is the removal of most of the esophagus, and also involved moving up the stomach. A few days after surgery, surgeons placed two stents to repair a small leak, eventually to be removed.

While Walter recovered at the hospital, Beth shared with his doctors, “You gave me an early birthday present. I’ll be 69 [soon], and you gave me a new lease on my husband’s life.”

Jokingly, she then turned to her husband and said, “’Now, don’t get sassy with me when you return home!’

“Sometimes we just need to laugh even in hard times!”

After a three-week hospital stay, the couple returned home, where Walter continues to recover. Beth spends much of her time caring for her husband.

Prior to his surgery, Walter’s hospital social worker told the couple about Fair Haven. The two of them arrived to stay the night before Walter’s surgery. Beth says that the first time she walked into Fair Haven, she was “dumbfounded. It has such a homey feeling, and I’ve been able to visit with so many other people. Like Rhoda. I feel like I’ve known her all my life.

“You know, Rhoda called me one evening because she was concerned that I hadn’t returned from the hospital. I let her know I was waiting for the doctors. We hung up and she immediately called back. She said, ‘I forgot to ask if I can pray for you.’ We prayed together right over the phone!”

Beth has continued to stay in touch with Rhoda even after returning home to Louisville. Reflecting on her stay at Fair Haven, Beth shares, “I feel like I’ve made friends for life.

“Fair Haven’s generosity and the guests’ kindness helped me financially and emotionally throughout my stay. Many were concerned about how my husband and I were doing, and my husband didn’t have to worry about my safety.

“God bless everyone!”

Through your support, Fair Haven provides the blessing of a home-away-from-home for families battling a serious illness. Bring hope to families like Beth’s today with your gift of support.