ARCANUM — Theresa Howerton, a lifelong native of the Arcanum area, is fighting for her life, after recently being diagnosed with Glioblastoma Grade 4 brain cancer.
Assisting her in her battle is husband Ed, who made the difficult decision to take off work to stay home to care for her.
“She is on a very long course of radiation and chemo treatments,” said the former over-the-road truck driver.
Her health woes began on April 17 this year, after she collapsed in front of the house picking up trash that was left there.
“She doesn’t remember our daughter taking her to the ER,” he said.
Earlier, she reportedly had problems writing out a check, trying seven times but couldn’t get it.
“This was a prelude to what happened that day,” Ed said. “We saw subtle signs prior to that.”
Doctors found a mass on the brain with a CT scan.
“There was no mark on her head and no bruises,” he said. “It was almost like she blacked out.”
On April 24, after she was transferred to Miami Valley, she underwent an MRI, which confirmed there was a tumor.
Ed said he was not allowed in the hospital with her because of COVID-19, but could be there when she had her biopsies.
“April 17 is the day I came off the road to care for her,” he said. “Our lives haven’t been the same since that day. I’ve been trying to get the message out there to everyone that will listen about the emotional and financial burden this type of illness will do to a family.”
During the time, his wife was in the hospital, Ed kept his mind busy by helping his mother-in-law, Nancy Wright, remodel her hair studio in town.
“We did a lot of video chats with Theresa and when she told me about the diagnosis I told her I already knew,” he said. “Theresa started radiation and chemotherapy treatments and was in and out of the hospital since then.”
He went on, “Her legs started swelling and they found blood clots, not but severe. They started her on Coumadin but were afraid the tumors would start bleeding. They monitored it close.”
Altogether, she spent about three weeks in the hospital and was in and out of the hospice care center.
Their daughter, Whitney Westfall of Ithaca, also comes to help out with her mother, who is bed-ridden. A hospice nursing assistant is on call and an aide bathes her and tends to her other needs.
“I’m in control of her medications,” he said. “I cook and feed her. I am here for moral support. Ever since then, I’ve never left her side except during her hospital stints. I slept in the recliner near her hospital bed for three months and just recently started sleeping in the bedroom.”
That move was made after a change was made in her medications.
“At one point, Theresa was having delusions and wanted to crawl out of bed, not remembering that she couldn’t walk,” he said. “Somebody needs to be here 24/7 with her. After they adjusted her meds, she is back to her old self 100 percent and is more responsible.”
In addition to caring for his wife, he has another concern.
“There is no income and we have no way to get financial help because of the pandemic,” he said. “I want to care for my spouse. I married her for better or worse. I have contacted state and local representatives. I want to bring awareness. I know I’m not the only person who wants to take care of their spouse.”
The Howertons, who have an adopted daughter, Tabitha Thompson, are grateful for the family and friends who have donated money and their services.
Ed has set up a GoFundMe account in Theresa’s name.
“While donations are appreciated, your thoughts and prayers are needed,” Ed said. “I have to stretch our dollars. With this disease we never know how long a person has to live.”
Theresa has a golf ball-size tumor in her brain 4 inches in diameter and it’s inoperable.
“It’s the most aggressive cancer of all cancers,” he said. “I placed her hospital bed in front of the window in our living room so she could watch birds, especially cardinals. She can look out and see the world.”
According to him, his wife has been disabled since 2013 with leg problems.
“She needs constant care,” he said. “It’s a mental torment on our family. I try to stay strong for her and want her to stay strong. There is a lot of emotional and financial stress involved. My main goal is to ease our financial burden. I have to jump through loops to keep our lights on and a roof over our head with little or no income. There is no regular constant assurance of money coming in. I wish the government would set up a program or policy that will insure a loved one could take care of a loved on without risk of financial burden.”
The Howertons celebrated their 24th anniversary March 16 and are hoping to be able to celebrate their 25th next year.
The couple met while working at Delphi in Vandalia. He began working there in 1992 and she in 1993 but they didn’t start dating until late 1995 and were married in 1996.
Being the southern gentleman that he is, Ed asked her father, (the late) Gary Wright, for his daughter’s hand in marriage. He obliged and they tied the knot, with former Arcanum Mayor the late Larry Foureman officiating at the ceremony.
Theresa, a 1981 Franklin Monroe graduate, underwent total knee replacement surgery this past October and was recovering when this cancer was discovered.
“She started walking before the fall,” he said.