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Firefighter beating the odds

July 7, 2013
Esther McCoy - For The Times Leader , Times Leader

MINGO JUNCTION - She fights fires, helps save lives as a paramedic, rides a street bike, enjoys motocross racing, repelling and is always upbeat.

To see area resident Yvonne Fair, no one could know she is suffering from inoperable stage 4 melanoma cancer.

Fair, 27, was a staff sergeant serving in the Air Force at Grand Forks, N.D., and working as a biological engineer when she found a lump on the side of her neck. She went to a military doctor who determined it to be nothing but a cyst.

Article Photos

Photo courtesy/Esther McCoy
Yvonne Fair looks the picture of health but has been fighting inoperable stage 4 melanoma for some time. She is a firefighter with the Neffs and Brilliant volunteer fire departments and sometimes struggles to keep going after the chemotherapy treatments.

As it started growing fast and had become the size of a baseball within a month, she went for a second opinion, to an ear, nose and throat specialist, where a biopsy was taken. With this visit, it was determined it could be cancer.

Fair asked that it be removed, as it would just continue to grow, and the results came back as positive melanoma.

"I knew something was wrong when the doctor walked into the room," she said. "I was sent back home to my parents, just outside of Mingo Junction, to go through a round of chemotherapy. They were only doing it 'for precaution measures,' they told me.

"While having chemotherapy treatments, a second bump appeared on my arm. It tested positive and was removed while I was on my rounds of chemotherapy treatments," Fair explained.

As more bumps were appearing, she went to UPMC Shadyside Hillman Cancer Center in Pittsburgh and was put on a more aggressive chemo program.

She then needed brain surgery as the cancer had attacked there and went on from the brain, to the bones, lungs, pancreas and adrenal glands, it was noted.

"The brain surgery went well. It stopped the growth there. A spot is still on my pancreas. Some spots measure in inches, not centimeters, but they have shrunk a few millimeters and stabilized. Learning this, I went to dinner with my boyfriend, Larry Myers, to celebrate. He has always been supportive," Fair said.

"The first good news I have received is that the cancer is now stable and nothing is increasing in size. I'm just happy with that for right now. The only side effects have been nausea. Today I feel fine, but some days I have so much pain I can't get up from bed," she related.

Yvonne works full time with the Neffs Fire Department, an area near Bridgeport. She is a paramedic and firefighter, working 24 hours on the job and 48 hours off. "There are beds for sleeping, and if I feel sick, the guys on the job work with me," Fair pointed out.

She works part time, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the week, at the Brilliant Fire Department as a firefighter and paramedic as well.

Members of the Brilliant department are holding a benefit to help with Fair's extensive medical expenses. There will be a half chicken dinner from 3-7 p.m. on Aug. 3, with a cost of $8 per dinner. A "Night at the Races" will follow from 7-11 p.m. There is a $5 cover at the door for those who want to attend without dinner or horse purchase.

A Chinese auction and 50/50 drawing will be held as well. Those wishing to donate items for the Chinese auction or to volunteer the day of the event can call (740) 598-8234.

Monetary donations can be sent to the Huntington Bank, in care of Yvonne Fair, 325 Hollywood Boulevard, Steubenville, OH 43952.

"I have to keep going. I can't give up and I can't think about what will happen next. I feel and look healthy. I don't feel like I have cancer and this attitude has helped," she smiled.

Fair said her dad, Harry, has been an inspiration to her. As a child, he encouraged her to keep trying and to stay positive.

"My mom, Donna, and everybody is behind me. You don't know how many will support you and be cheering for you until you need it," she said.

"I still go to the gym and work out. It has to do with my attitude. I have my Jesus moments and sometimes wonder how much longer I have. But I can't think of it as my life being over. I go and do what I enjoy and would encourage anyone with cancer to try and realize that it is not the end of the world. As long as you have your life, enjoy it," she said.

"If it were not for my work with the fire departments, I would have given up at times. It gave me something to concentrate on," she said.

Fair is a 2003 graduate of Buckeye Local High School, and she graduated from Eastern Gateway Community College with paramedic skills.

"When I was first diagnosed, I nearly gave up. I didn't want to be a burden to anyone. But that has changed. I ride a street bike to work and have a dirt bike that I ride. I can't sit at home and worry. My medical records have been signed over for research in the event it could help somebody else," Fair added.

 
 

 

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