Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Libby Warfield overcomes cancer to gain council seat

This story originally appeared in the print edititon of the Midway Messenger. This version contains corrections and minor additions. The Messenger regrets the errors.

By Megan Ingros
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

When life gives you lemons, find the matching curtains and spruce up your interior design.

At least that’s what certified interior designer, church organist and Midway City Council member Libby Warfield might suggest.

Libby Warfield
Warfield, 63, has been serving on the council since January. She filed to run in 2012, but pulled out of the race before her name was ever on the ballot because she was diagnosed with stage four cancer of a salivary gland. The cancer grew into Warfield’s facial nerve trunk, which caused one side of her face to be permanently paralyzed.

“When they told me at Markey Cancer Center that I had stage four cancer with only a 30 percent chance of survival, immediately I started saying ‘I trust in God and I have faith in God for whatever reason this has happened’,” Warfield recalled, “It was a second-nature reaction to it.”

Warfield underwent chemotherapy and radiation at the same time, and five months after her treatments and surgery she returned as choir director and organist for Troy Presbyterian Church. She has been an organist since she was 16.

Salivary gland cancer is a rare type that can be caused by age, radiation exposure, diet and certain workplace exposures.

“Some studies have suggested that people who work with certain metals or minerals and people who work in asbestos mining, plumbing, rubber products manufacturing, and some types of woodworking may be at increased risk,” the American Cancer Society says on its website.

Warfield said she has been on construction sites her entire life and is trying to stay away from paint and chemicals. With a changed lifestyle, including an organic diet, vitamins and herbal supplements, she is doing everything she can to remain cancer-free.

“When I think about anything I’m doing now, I am trusting in God that I’m supposed to be doing what I’m doing,” she said. “It also has a lot to do with the way I go about making decisions.”

So how does Warfield make her decisions now as a council member? Differently, she says. “Now I always look for what’s God’s will in this,” she said. “A lot of times it’s how much time you can study and research an issue, that’s key.”

Warfield said she believes in getting into a position to look at every angle and aspect of a situation. “I’m really studying, everyday I’m doing something for the council,” she said two months into her term.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said he recognizes Warfield’s strong incentive to really understand what is going on in the town. “I don't know Libby very well on a personal level,” he said, “but I appreciate her attention to detail and her desire to learn more about how city government works.”

Vandegrift and Warfield were on opposite sides recently as the council debated an ordinance, proposed by Vandegrift, to ban discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in housing, employment and public accommodations. Warfield and Council Member Steven Craig voted against the ordinance, the eighth of its kind in the state.

Warfield questioned the ordinance in meetings, but chose to explain her vote in writing, in a statement attached to the minutes of the council’s June 1 meeting, at which the ordinance passed.

She wrote that the county Human Rights Commission had not shown the need for the ordinance. “There is no prejudice or discrimination here,” she said, adding later, “My 39-year-old son, who is gay, was born here and lived most of his life here. He is a past member of this city council. He and I agree that there is no reason for this ordinance at this time.”

Warfield concluded, “Who do we think we are to impose such a law? Wouldn’t it be better to proclaim to the world that Midway has always been and will continue to be a ‘Golden Rule Community’ and spending some quality time defining what that really means?”

Warfield also said the ordinance would be difficult to enforce, reflecting a concern that she voiced in an interview shortly after it was proposed in February.

She mentioned several ordinances dealing with such things as dogs, sidewalks and ordinances that “are just impractical and impossible to enforce, such as Ordinance 92.22(f) requires a window in every room; 92.22(j) – no spitting on the sidewalk; 92.22(k) – imperfect trap, sink, drainage appliance.”

Warfield said she ran for council because she feels blessed by being born and raised in Midway: “I reaped all the rewards of a really tiny town and the experience growing up here was amazing and I just felt like I needed to do something to give back.”

Serving the community runs in the family. Her son, Matt Warfield was as a council member for two years, and her mother, Jean Clifton Sharon, served for 12 and was a correspondent for The Woodford Sun. She has been married to David Warfield since 1972.

“I do have a lot of knowledge about the past of Midway, not that we should base our decisions on what used to be, but that is a good foundation,” she said.

Warfield wants the council to resume a program to helped homeowners repair and replace sidewalks. “We’ve got to get those straightened out,” she said.

Early in her term, made what she called “a big hoopdeedoo” about the need for “an ambulance in Midway or an ambulance closer to Midway.”

Vandergrift took the issue to the county fiscal court, which rejected it.

More than anything, Warfield says she wants to be a voice for those who are reluctant to use their own. “We have really nice people in this town, and they’re not going to complain no matter what, even if they have strong opinions on something it would be very rare,” she said. “I have a business phone number, Libby Warfield Interiors, so it’s not hard to find in the phone book. I’m willing to talk to people about whatever their concerns are anytime.”

Warfield said she may seek another term if she is able, but faces the drawback of having to file in January for the November 2016 election: “I don’t live my life any more with long-term plans.”

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