• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Group battles cancer with pints, laughter

WOLFPACK MEMBERS, from left, Joy Farmer, Carol Broughton, Becky Selby and Allison Gentry, don't always wear their pink "Still Saving Second Base" t-shirts to Pint Night at Kroger. The quartet has lived within a block of each other for a dozen years, and Farmer, Broughton and Gentry have made Selby's nearly three-year battle with breast and lung cancer easier - and funnier. (Photo by Becky Selby)

If you walk into the Kroger liquor store on a Thursday between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m., you'll likely see a dozen or so people wearing pink t-shirts gathered around the small bar next to the cash registers. You'll see Becky and Joy and Carol and Allison and their friends and spouses hoisting a pint of beer and taking pictures via selfie-stick and teasing one another and laughing. You won't see what brought them together: The tumors in Becky Selby's lungs that doctors found last August. Actually, their story begins before that. By the time Selby learned she had triple negative breast cancer in May of 2014, she and Joy Farmer and Carol Broughton and Allison Gentry had lived within a block of each other in the Gleneagles subdivision for nearly a decade. That spring, Selby underwent a lumpectomy and blasts of radiation and chemotherapy - and the ladies, who call themselves "The Wolfpack," after the riotous crew in "The Hangover" movies, began spending more time together. When the cancer returned last year, Pint Night at Kroger became a regular event. So, too, apparently, did finishing each other's stories and even sentences. "This started as kind of a funny, 'Hey, let's go drink at Kroger.' Chemos were originally on Friday, and this is on Thursday. Well, Thursdayshe would get real anxious," said Farmer. "Very emotional," added Broughton. "And she would not want to come," Farmer continued. "She would have her little pity party and we'd go in her house ..." "They literally walk into my house," Selby interjected. "And drag her out," Farmer added. "And say, 'What shirt are we wearing?' Sometimes they've even lifted me off the couch and said, 'You're going,' with tears in my eyes, and they're like, 'You look beautiful.' I can tear up just thinking about it," Selby said. There are more laughs than tears, though, and more talk about kids than cancer. Selby is amused by the way Farmer occasionally lectures her eldest son, Hagan. "She will fuss at him like nobody's business," Selby said. When a newcomer arrives, though, Selby will share her story. After the mastectomy and debilitating treatments, she thought - hoped - that she was in the clear. "My hair started growing back, I lost a lot of weight, we started going places, and so that lasted about 17 months until August of '16. It came back stage four, metastatic to my lungs. Huge tumors in my lungs. So now that's incurable. It's treatable, but incurable. I've been on, like, six vacations. We've done so many things together," Selby said. "The first time I was diagnosed, I said I would never go through that treatment again, because it was horrible. But when it went into my lungs and they said, 'You could possibly have three months to live,' I was like, 'I guess I'll try it again.'" She began weekly chemotherapy treatments, now down to every three weeks, and Selby said her doctor told her the tumors have shrunk. Meantime, the Wolfpack has been to Las Vegas and Green River and Lake Cumberland and meet regularly on non-Pint Nights, too. Last November, 20 friends and loved ones shared Thanksgiving at a cabin in Lake Cumberland. "We decided, we don't know how long Becky's going to be here, so we ..." began Broughton. "I said, I'm not going to be here ..." Selby added. "And we decided, 'We're going to go with you,'" Broughton said. Farmer continued the tale. "She said she wasn't going to do any holidays this year basically, like at home. She lost her mom earlier last year, all of a sudden. So she was like, 'I'm not doing Thanksgiving, I'm not doing Christmas,' and so she said she was leaving and we all said, 'We're going with you,'" Farmer said. "I've taken a lot of trips, because when you're told you have three months, you better do something," Selby said. Selby said her blunt but caring doctor told her in August that she should get her affairs in order, and that if she had a bucket list, she should begin crossing the items off. "And we have," said Farmer. The three months given Selby without treatment have stretched into eight with it, though she feels badly for days after each session. On this particular Thursday, two weeks after her last chemo session and six days before her next, she felt good. "Today I feel like myself, even though I don't look like myself," she said. Nearly three years after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Selby's life has consisted of much more than surgery and life-preserving but debilitating medicines. The Wolfpack and their followers have held benefits and distributed 300 or so t-shirts, the latest with the inscription, "Still saving second base." (The ladies have to explain the reference to a newcomer who'd apparently forgotten the next step after a passionate kiss.) "If I didn't have them, I don't know where I'd be. I really don't. If I didn't have my girlfriends, I'd literally be - would I not be curled up? You all have seen me curled up in the corner, crying," Selby said to her friends. There are some secrets they will not share; among them the answer to the question of whether Farmer, a police officer, and Broughton, a nurse practitioner, have had to practice their professions when the Wolfpack is in full howl. "We know a lot of people, like, because we come here every Thursday, think that we're just coming here to drink. It's not even about that at all," Farmer said. "Think about it - you only get two (pints)." Selby said with the help of her friends, she'll keep battling for herself, her sons Hagan and Hunter, and her husband, Will, with whom she'll celebrate their 24th wedding anniversary on May 15. "They've been married forever. They're like the perfect couple," Broughton said. Gentry said each of the four have roles they seem to fill: She's the mother of the group; Broughton the one who asks about a cough or medications; Farmer the cautious and aware (but still fun-loving) member; and Selby, the one who makes them all laugh. Amidst the pints drained and laughs shared, they haven't forgotten what brought them together. "Very quickly it can go from laughter to just kind of recognizing something and go to tears, but we literally lean on one another and pull each other out of that," Gentry said. "There are high-lows, obviously, throughout this process. I honestly can't imagine what it would be like for me (to have cancer), but as a friend, as her support team, we try to make sure those lows are less and the highs are greater." Even if it means telling the one with cancer that her pity party is over because it's time to go to chemotherapy - or Pint Night. "We vacation together and we have fire pits together. We go to the lake together. We just have become a family, more than just friends, honestly," Farmer said. "It's a really special relationship like I've never had before," said Selby.

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