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Birney Imes: Surviving with grace

 

Birney Imes

 

After her Friday morning workout at the Fitness Factor, Pat Wayman came home, put on her work clothes and spent the next five hours clearing underbrush in the woods bordering her backyard. Around 4:30 a friend came over and the two of them went through her beehives. 

 

They finished with the bees a little before six. By then her daughter, Pam, who is a forester with Weyerhaeuser, had stopped by. Pat, ever the gracious host, went into her house and retrieved bottled water for everyone. 

 

Pat, who is 78, is a cancer survivor, a painter and retired interior designer. She moved from Atlanta to Columbus in 2000 with her husband, Wilbur.  

 

After retiring as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Signal Corps, Wilbur had entered academia, eventually rising to head the department of marketing in the business school at Georgia State University. By the time they moved, he had retired and was suffering from Parkinson''s and dementia. Pat took care of Wilbur until his death in 2004. 

 

The very next year she was diagnosed with cancer for the second time; while in Atlanta, she had undergone treatment for ovarian cancer. Doctors here amputated part of her foot, but the disease had spread throughout her body. Her oncologist called it a cancer of unknown primary. Prospects weren''t good. 

 

She underwent eight months of chemotherapy, before having an allergic reaction to the medicine. 

 

"It was horrible, absolutely horrible," Pat remembers. The medicine sapped her strength to the point where walking across the room was an ordeal. 

 

In 2008 she underwent another eight-month course of chemo. This after her doctor had told her he couldn''t cure her. 

 

A CAT scan has since revealed no evidence of cancer in Pat Wayman''s body. 

 

"Dr. Whitaker looks at me and just shakes his head," she says. 

 

She attributes her present good health, at least part of it, to the chemo: "It worked; I would not do it again at age 78, but I''m glad I did it." 

 

Pat also credits yard work and her friends in Studio 206, a collective of women artists who meet weekly to paint, have lunch and, perhaps most importantly, listen to one another. 

 

"They saved my life," says Pat. "When you are cooped up together, you talk. They are better than any therapist." 

 

I ran into Pat about a year or so ago at a luncheon given by Pat Brown, one of the 206 girls. 

 

"Pat Wayman wants to talk to you about beekeeping," one of the guests told me as I walked in. "She wants to get some hives." 

 

Something about this elegant and vibrant woman told me Pat wasn''t just making small talk. 

 

Pat and Pam got their first hive last summer. They plan to expand to three this spring. 

 

"I''d read all these articles about the bee population diminishing," Pat said Friday afternoon. "I''ve got all this land; I can take care of a few bees. I''d read your articles, and I had talked to Renée (Sheridan). 

 

With only minimal guidance, this independent mother-daughter team is well on their way to becoming proficient beekeepers. They''ve ordered books, hives, equipment and have created a beautiful natural setting as a backdrop for their hives. 

 

"It''s a constant learning experience," Pat told me. "Every time I talk to you; every time I talk to Renée, I learn something." 

 

In late summer Pat and Pam extracted three gallons of honey from their hive. 

 

"We weren''t expecting any honey. We just got the bees to take care of the yard," Pat said. 

 

When asked what she did with all that honey, Pat replied laughing, "We ate it." That is after sharing with family and some of Pam''s coworkers. 

 

Pat says Columbus has been a godsend. "I absolutely love it here," she says. 

 

"When I came here, I was leaving 28 years of friends in Atlanta. I knew no one here but Pam." 

 

She has a son in Atlanta and one in Houston, Texas. 

 

"I miss the shopping, music and museums, but I don''t miss the traffic," she says about her former hometown. 

 

Pat Wayman has little problem filling her days. She is a gallery volunteer at the Rosenzweig Arts Center; she works out with a trainer and with the help of Alan Smith, is reordering the landscape around her house. 

 

"I use every spare minute to get out in the yard," she says. "Just to be able to look forward to something rather than pills." 

 

 

Birney Imes III is the Editor and Publisher of The Dispatch.

 

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