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Beaten but not broken: Woman penning book in light of cancer, other struggles

FRANKLIN GROVE – The title of her forthcoming book came to her in an instant, just as the people who have helped her through some of her toughest battles came to her in a time of need.

Carole "Monte Rae" Faivre, 70, of Franklin Grove, is penning her life story, titled "Beaten but not Broken: Earthly Angels."

It's about her struggles with a difficult childhood, an abusive relationship, teenage pregnancy, the loss of two 20-something sons and, most recently, cancer.

But it's more a tale of those people who have guided her, helped her and healed her along the way – the angels on Earth who have saved her.

Faivre, who suffers from a bit of short-term memory loss and sometimes has trouble finding the words to express herself, is working on a chapter about her battle with cancer.

Faivre, a nurse-turned-counselor and alternative healer, was diagnosed in June 2011 with acute myeloid leukemia, sometimes referred to as acute myelocytic leukemia, a relatively rare and aggressive type of blood cancer.

Treatment usually consists of two phases of chemotherapy – induction and consolidation therapy. The goal of induction therapy is to reduce the number of cancer cells to an undetectable level, that is to achieve remission. The goal, then, of consolidation therapy is to eliminate any residual, undetectable disease.

Within days of her diagnosis, Faivre started the first phase of her treatment at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

It wasn't without its complications, though.

Faivre had a reaction to a platelet transfusion. She started itching, her face swelled and her throat swelled shut. She was in and out of cardiopulmonary arrest for an hour.

Like most cancer patients, she had unbearable side effects from chemotherapy, too. She at first suffered only from headaches. But she soon was hit with overwhelming fatigue, deep pain and even amnesia. She battled nausea, vomiting and diarrhea while she lost her hair.

"Today was my day to feel sorry for myself for a couple of hours," she reads from her cancer diary.

She chokes up, reliving the experience through her haphazard scrawling in the thick brown leather-covered journal.

After a month or two, Faivre started the second phase of her treatment, sometimes at KSB Hospital in Dixon and other times at her home.

It continued to be a tough road.

Faivre received intravenous antibiotics to treat two infections for which she had to be at the hospital for a couple of hours twice a day for 2 weeks.

Faivre also took oral chemotherapy drugs and put herself on bed rest to maintain her strength.

"Sometimes I get tired of being upbeat, smiling, healing and listening to others all the time," she reads from the diary, which includes 4 pages of signatures of care providers, many of whom she treated and prayed for. "But that is who I am, and if I let down that smile and positive attitude, it would be my loss."

She chokes up again.

Today, Faivre is nearing the end of her consolidation therapy and starting to bounce back.

She is taking 16 pills a day, eight in the morning and eight in the evening, of all-trans-retinoic acid, or ATRA; she will finish her therapy in October.

A former psychiatric nurse, she recently reopened her at-home business, Wellness and Counseling Resource Center, through which she offers counseling, as well as Reiki, reflexology, and myofascial release.

She is writing that book, too, speaking into a headset with a microphone connected to a shiny, silver laptop computer at her dining room table. She has papers strewn about, rough drafts of passages, her cancer diary, photographs. She writes chapters as she has the energy.

Faivre marvels at her survival – that's the word she uses and that's the word that causes her again to get emotional – and hopes her book someday is a gift to those who feel helpless.

"I think I was chosen to keep positive, to set an example for others, ..." she says. "I just always want to help people. I will probably never know what exactly touched others."

Rummage sale to raise money

Carole "Monte Rae" Faivre is having a rummage sale to raise money to help pay for her chemotherapy drugs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at her home, 201 W. Stone Barn Road near Lost Nation.

Books, jewelry, formalwear and household items will be up for sale.

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