Archive for Thursday, June 6, 2002

A reason to smile

As husband and wife, the Fosters have won their cancer battles

June 6, 2002

Virgil Foster wondered what his reaction would be if he found out he had cancer. After all, his wife, Maxine, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1979 and successfully underwent surgery.

In 1987, when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, Virgil got the answer to his question.

"It makes you feel kind of funny when you've been just fine and all of a sudden you notice something and you just wonder, 'What is this?'" he said.

During the three weeks he waited for biopsy results, Virgil said he assumed he had cancer.

"I'd figured out what it was," he said about discovering a lump near his groin. "It was no big deal."

The couple will celebrate their victories over cancer by participating in the survivor lap at the Relay for Life Friday at Laws Field.

A lot has changed since the Fosters fought the disease, especially in the 23 years since Maxine was diagnosed.

"Now they say it's no big deal, don't worry about it," Virgil said of the urgency to run tests. "Before that, you had to get it done now."

Having dealt with cancer herself made coping with Virgil's situation easier, Maxine said, even though her case wasn't as severe.

"His was a lot harder than mine," she said. "A couple of times, he was hardly with us."

Maxine's breast cancer was easily treated with surgery, but Virgil's cancer was inoperable, meaning he had to go through chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

After diagnosis, the next thing Virgil said he worried about was what it would be like when his hair came out.

Yet despite the discomforts and worries that came with chemotherapy treatments, Virgil recalled teasing and joking with the staff treating him.

"I think you get by a lot better when you can joke," he said.

In a situation in which some couples might wonder why both partners would be struck with cancer, Maxine said they both were just thankful for the success of their treatments.

"I suppose there are some, but we don't know any," she said of other couples with cancer. "It's usually one or the other.

"But yet, we are so blessed to be this many years now without any problems with it. There are an awful lot in Eudora who have had cancer."

In spite of the joy the couple's health brings them, Virgil, who still has the catheter in his chest where he was injected with chemotherapy, wonders if others feel as glad.

"And then you also get to wondering how it is I'm still going, and it's been 14 years or better, and you see somebody that's lost their loved one," he said. "Do they resent me? It makes me wonder."

Maxine's explanation for their health is a simple one.

"God's got a plan for everybody, and we're not going to go until our time comes," she said.

Maxine bragged about her husband, who at 78 works several short shifts a week at a hardware store in Baldwin City. Both partners will demonstrate their health and stamina with other survivors at the Relay.

"We'll walk our lap this Friday night," she said. "Hopefully it won't be too hot. If there's rain, that would feel good, too."

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