Local News

Breast Cancer A Family Affair For Local Couples

Posted May 15, 2001 9:28 a.m. EDT

— By the end of this year, 5,500 women in North Carolina will be diagnosed with breast cancer. The disease will not only touch them but also their husbands, families and friends.

Woody Farr knows fear and pain and loss firsthand. Hank and Sara Williams know it too. Williams began her battle against breast cancer December 12, 1997.

Hank Williams remembers, "Sara had found a lump and pretty much ignored it and said, "It will go away." But it didn't go away, and she said, "I'm going to get this checked out."

The decorated vet says he was terrified.

"This probably scared me more than anything in Vietnam did," he says.

The lump was malignant, and the couple began their fight, one that included surgery, chemotherapy, hair loss and pain, both physical and emotional.

"I would have traded places with her every day if she wouldn't have to go through it," Williams says. "Every day."

Williams' fears never matched his dedication to his wife of six years.

Doctor appointments, chemo sessions, whatever the need, he was there, and together they survived.

"There're a lot of men who can't do this," says Sara Williams. "And they leave their wives. I've met tons of women who are left like that."

Williams says her marriage is definitely "'til death do us part."

Death did part Woody and Paula Farr after 38 years of marriage.

The Farrs met in 1960. Twenty-five years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

A radical mastectomy and treatment followed, with no traces of the killer for 11 years. And then, an unexpected return, followed by another mastectomy more treatment and a courageous battle.

The final diagnosis came in February of last year. Farr was devastated. Fighting his own battle with prostate cancer, he never wavered in his support of his wife of 38 years.

"For the spouse, for the guy, you've got to be there," he says. "And they've got to know you're there for them. The breast surgery doesn't change them. It may change them emotionally because of the scarring, but it doesn't change them from the individual they are."

The final battle lasted almost a year. Farr remembers the last words they spoke to each other.

"It was Saturday morning. She was in deep morphine. I told her I loved her. She told me she loved me. Those were the last words," he remembers.

Cancer silenced the laughter in the Farr house, took his best friend, his lover, his wife. It has bent his spirit, but he is determined not to break.

"I'm dealing with it," he says. "I know she would want me to be doing what I'm doing"

Photographer:Joe Frieda