ROCK FALLS – When Geraldine Fargher was diagnosed 2 years ago with stage 2 breast cancer, her reaction was fear.
“I was scared, emotionally a nervous wreck, I cried for a while,” the 62-year-old said.
She had a lumpectomy, followed by 33 radiation treatments at Northern Illinois Cancer Center and chemotherapy at KSB Hospital’s Commerce Tower Clinic in Dixon, under the care of Dr. Sharon Shipp.
“Chemo had a different effect on me,” Fargher said. “I experienced muscle tightness, I was very weak, but had no vomiting or intestinal issues. “
It was the exhaustion that really got to her.
“They (the doctors) explained that I would lose my hair, and I did, and I was really tired. That is so out of character for me, but we didn’t even have Christmas dinner that year – I was just too tired.”
Fargher, a homemaker with a quick smile and sunny disposition, gives her husband much credit for getting her through.
“I don’t drive, and my husband stood by me, took me to all appointments and stayed with me. I don’t think I would have made it without his support.”
Others also pitched in. Her youngest daughter, Heidi, and other family members helped with housework and cooking, and Heidi held a fundraiser to help with medical expenses. Two hundred people came and bought food and raffle tickets.
Home of Hope Cancer Wellness Center in Dixon also helped with expenses – “not just medical, but whatever the need was. That was very nice, and a big relief,” Fargher said.
The Farghers share their modest home with a renter whose wife died of breast cancer. Geraldine understands what he and his wife endured, and wants to support him as he struggles with her loss.
When asked how others can help a cancer patient, she’s quick to answer: “Be there for them. It was very, very comforting to have my husband go through this with me.”
Her advice to others? “Don’t skip your appointments.”
“Early detection is critical,” Fargher said. “I had skipped (routine screening) for several years, but a mammogram was instrumental in my diagnosis and care. “
And seek help when you need it.
“Help is available from the Health Department. They helped me. I had no other insurance, then I got Medicaid after I was diagnosed. The [Susan G. Komen for the Cure] foundation paid for my mammogram.”
She’s now at the aftercare stage, still going for bloodwork and checkups, but her sojourn with breast cancer still is fresh in her mind.
“During that time, I prayed a lot and experienced a deep appreciation of what I have. I took time to read and crochet.”
Now she sets different daily priorities, such as spending more time with their five children and three grandchildren.
“We were able to attend Grandparents Day at Dillon and Merrill schools. We went to all three girls’ schools this year! Now, It’s mostly family for me.”
The Whiteside County Health Department administers the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program to under- or uninsured patients. Go to www.whitesidehealth.org or call Evette VonHolten at 815-626-2230, ext. 1235, for more information.
Home of Hope Cancer Wellness Center, 1637 Plock Road in Dixon, offers a wide variety of support and other services for cancer patients and their families and caregivers. Go to www.homeofhopeonline.com or call 815-288-4673 for more information.