Real Love

By Billie Chainey

Terry Haydel appears to be a prosperous chiropractor, stocky, middle aged, dressed immaculately in a stylish suit, with a wonderful family living the good life in an upscale suburb of Los Angeles. To those not his intimates, he always has a smile and a cheery greeting. But Terry’s closest friends know the sorrow masked by his ever-friendly grin. His wife, Sharon, had been battling Hodgkin’s disease, an uncommon cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system, for more than thirteen years.

Sharon was pronounced terminal in 1992 when their two little girls, Allison five and Julie were two years of age. In Hodgkin’s disease, cells in the lymphatic system grow abnormally and may spread beyond the lymphatic system. As Hodgkin’s progresses, it compromises your body’s ability to fight infection. It most commonly affects people between the ages of 15 and 40 and people older than age 55. Sharon was 35 years old when she was diagnosed as terminal. Each year, about 1,300 Americans die of Hodgkin’s disease. However, death rates for this disease have dropped by 60 percent since the 1970s due to more advances in medical and holistic technology.

With Hodgkin’s disease most people do not last more than a few months or years, but Terry was not ready to say goodbye to his wife. Also, Sharon wanted to have more time with her daughters. She wanted to live long enough for her children to remember her. Terry told me that he saw real fear in Sharon’s brown eyes after the diagnosis. He told her, “I believe we can find a way to kill off this cancer with natural medicine. You know I’ve not seen many successful cases using chemotherapy. I want you to try every natural healing method available.” She broke down sobbing in my arms begging God to let her live.”

Sharon was a registered nurse, she had an upbeat personality with petite body, and she reminded me of a bright pixie as she was always smiling. She felt her best hope lay with medicine and science, but Terry wanted to take every possible path. During those thirteen years, Terry sent his wife to every medical cancer clinic around the world. Terry and Sharon used every kind of traditional and alternative treatment they could find. He even sent her to Lourdes in France to bathe in the holy water, which is famous for having miracles. Although Sharon had little faith in alternative treatments, she willingly participated in anything that might gain her more time with her family.

As the years passed and the treatments failed to yield a cure, the once happy, carefree Terry seemed to change. People found him turning down invitations he formerly would have jumped at. He stopped calling others and making arrangements for outings. Terry even began to ignore his twin brother Kerry with whom he had done everything. The few hours he had for himself he spent alone, trying not to think or feel. Cancer has a way of infecting everyone, not just the victim.

Of course, Terry had few hours to be alone. He had become both mother and father to his two children. Sharon was unable to do much because of the drain that chemotherapy and radiation placed on her body. Sharon’s treatments also played on his mind. “Sharon consumes chemotherapy as though it was food,” he said to his brother Kerry, “I’ve never seen anybody take as much chemotherapy as she does and survive. I really wish she would just use natural medicine.”

Sharon did not trust holistic medicine like Terry did. There were many heated arguments between the two of them over natural and medical treatments. In the end, they compromised, combining both forms of treatment.

No man ever put so much time and energy into the proper upbringing of his two little girls, as Terry. He made their meals, took them to private Catholic school everyday and drove them to their soccer games. He threw himself in the role of being a ‘Mr. Mom’ to his two children, who were also dealing with their mother’s sickness. Despite his heavy workload, he never faltered at being the most incomparable person in his community.

Many times the medical doctors said that Sharon would not survive another day, yet she continued to live. The radiation destroyed her entire spinal column, which had to be rebuilt out of stainless steel. She endured a bone marrow transplant, but she tried to prevent her disease from swallowing her life. Once, she rode her daughter’s scooter, which ended in a crash and severe cuts to her face and head. “I want to keep participating in life as much as possible,” she said to Terry. When she had the energy she used every ounce to be the best wife and mother she could.

A Percutaneous Intravenous Catheter was placed into her chest for the administration of chemotherapy injections and one year it accidentally went through her heart. It was the equivalent of having a bullet shot into the heart. But Sharon did not let it change her life. The next day she was back home as though nothing had happened.

Terry made a substantial income, but every single penny he had went into alternative therapies for Sharon. Insurance does not cover alternative medicine. This choice placed an enormous hardship on him financially. Yet, the fact that Sharon kept surviving had to do with the addition of alternative natural medicine. Visiting every natural clinic from Los Angeles to Mexico, she was given acupuncture, nutritional supplements, colonics, oxygen therapy, and daily massage. None of her medical doctors could believe how long she kept living. Terry sacrificed everything in his life to keep her alive.

A lesser man might have deserted his wife. However the strain and stress were more bearable to Terry than the thought of abandoning Sharon in her time of need.

The effects of this illness on the children were enormous. Julie, the youngest child, blamed herself for her mother being sick. She felt that her birth had caused the cancer. Allison, the oldest, basically became the mother to both Sharon and Julie. She took on much of the household responsibility. Both children had to see psychologists throughout the years to cope with the fact that their mother would not live long. Sharon was able to see Allison graduate high school in June 2005, even though she had to attend the ceremony with her oxygen mask and tank. Nothing was going to deter her from missing this monumental occasion.

On July 26, 2005, he drove his wife to an alternative clinic close to San Diego. When they arrived, Sharon stated, “I just don’t want to go in. I think it’s best we just head back home. I just can’t take any more treatments.” The next day on Terry’s 50th birthday, July 27, 2005, his wife slipped into a coma. The ravages of cancer had consumed every organ in her body. She passed away August 1, 2005, at 6:30 AM at the age of 47.

Sharon’s life has left a great impact on everyone who knew her. No one could believe what a fighter she was. It will take several years for Terry to recover from the strain that this has placed on him, but being the strong person he is, he will come out of this with a renewed sense of life thanks to the support of his friends and family. Over 1200 people attended Sharon’s memorial on August 4, 2005, not just for her, but also because of their love of Terry. Everyone who knew these two people have been deeply touched by the crusade they fought together. They may not have won the war, but they certainly won many battles.

Cherokee Billie

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