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The Gift of Gratitude: An update and thank you from one of our own this holiday season

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WHS Class of 2005 find inspiration in the face of a battle with cancer

By Dustin Quinn, pictured is the Fay Family

“Home is where the heart is.” It’s cliche, but I feel this to my core about Wellsville. This area is embodied by not only its wild, scenic landscape but by the attributes of its people, to include integrity, compassion, and community engagement.

The story of my fellow Wellsville High School Class of 2005 graduate Anthony J. “AJ” Fay is representative of this. Earlier this year, AJ was diagnosed with Cholangiocarcinoma: a rare, aggressive bile duct cancer in the liver. Here is the inspirational story of AJ and the steps another local family was willing to take to help him.

Growing up playing baseball for Wellsville, AJ was a steady right-handed pitcher on the mound and a designated hitter on the other side of the inning. He fondly recalls being a member of the 2005 sectional title squad: “The whole season was amazing with a great group of teammates. If I had to pick a specific moment, it would be Dustin Hess’s walk-off in sectionals. It was great to watch one of my best friends succeed in such a high-pressure situation.”

Long ago now are the days we grew up on–filled with summer baseball leagues, fishing, or leisurely motorcycle rides with no destination. Still, his foundation in Wellsville helped shape AJ into the devoted and determined husband and father he is today. AJ and his wife, Lynne (Woodard) Fay, of Westfield, NY, now live in Rochester, NY, and have three young children: Anthony Jr. (5), Michael (3), and baby Julianna (born in March 2023). 

The Fay family are big Buffalo Bills fans!!

Earlier in his fight against cancer, AJ sought a match for a partial liver donation, and found one in the family of Staci (Shutt) Duffney, a fellow class of 2005 alumnus. Originally, Staci’s husband, Matt Duffney–who had only met AJ once–drove from his home in Alabama to Pittsburgh, PA, to undergo testing to see if he could donate part of his liver to AJ, but was not a match. But it turned out that Staci’s mother, Lisa Shutt of Wellsville, was an ideal match. 

The partial liver donation from Lisa to AJ was scheduled at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for the day of Lisa’s wedding anniversary to her husband, Tom. When the couple considered the date, Tom said, “What better way to celebrate our love?”

When the families gathered in Pittsburgh, Lynne said, “Lisa brought a peace to us that was so reassuring and comforting.” 

AJ with Lisa Shutt

Unfortunately, the two families learned on the day of the procedure that the donation could not be performed due to AJ’s cancer spreading into his abdominal cavity.

“The Shutts continued to stay in Pittsburgh for several days to provide comfort to us while AJ recovered at the hospital,” Lynne said. “It meant more than words can describe how caring of a family they are where they stayed around that long just to continue to offer us a support system.”

To Lisa, Lynne said, “You gave us a chance, an opportunity, and we are eternally grateful. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your selflessness and willingness to undergo surgery.” 

AJ has since doubled down on his fight against cancer. 

“He has that ‘go big or go home’ mentality,” Lynne said. “Seeking the best hospitals and doctors, undergoing extensive treatments and multiple procedures, and he just keeps on going. He continues without question, and I know it’s all for his family. There is no greater act of love and I am daily impressed by his resilience, optimism, and drive.”

AJ also wants to share with others what he has learned throughout this difficult year.

“As with any cancer or serious illness, detection at the beginning stages will result in more options and treatments. It’s not necessarily ‘fun’ to go to the doctor for annual exams or scans but it is important. Pay attention to your body because you will know when something feels off. It is also important to seek second opinions. Certain hospitals have more experience than others and seeking the best medical opinions from the best doctors specialized in your condition is key.”

Unfortunately, the challenges of cancer are not new to AJ, whose mother, Betty Fay of Wellsville, passed away from the disease in 2013. His father, Ed Fay, still lives in Wellsville and earlier this year spent five weeks by AJ’s side at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota while his son underwent radiation and chemotherapy.

AJ’s daily inspiration is his children. 

“Every morning I see their faces and know I need to continue to battle to be with them as long as possible,” he said.

When asked what others could do to help, Lynne said, “We already feel blessed by what the community has done for us. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as AJ continues his journey.”

Help the Fay Family tackle 2024 by donating via GoFundMe

My wife and I were also the recent recipients of incredible generosity from the Wellsville community. As we approach our next chapter, we strive to embody the examples of selflessness and perseverance set by the Shutts, the Fays, and every kind person who has supported us.

Happy holidays to all.  

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