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Local family not without hope

Willie and Cheryl Shelton credit their community and their faith for helping them along their journey with cancer.


Cheryl Shelton is no stranger to adversity. She experienced the sudden death of her first husband 21 years ago from a brain aneurysm. She buried both her parents this past year and adopted two babies with special needs. But nothing prepared her for the devastating diagnosis of terminal brain cancer her second husband Willie Shelton received this past March.
In six months Cheryl Shelton watched her strong 190-pound husband go from working full-time, wrestling 100-pound feed bags at Holmes AG Services, to ballooning to 280 pounds from steroids and blood clots and struggling to walk.
His world has been reduced to a reclining lift chair in their living room on the outskirts of Millersburg, but the Sheltons are not without hope. They have experienced the tremendous support of neighbors, friends, co-workers and family members and have faith in a God who still works miracles.
Cheryl Shelton remembers vividly the day her world turned upside down. It was March 27, and her husband, who had been struggling with headaches and diabetes-like symptoms, finally went to the doctor.
“He was always so healthy and never even took an aspirin,” Cheryl Shelton said.
Although his blood sugar was too high to register on the glucose monitor, Willie Shelton refused to go to the hospital after leaving the doctor’s office. Instead he intended to go back to work. He hasn’t been back since.
Cheryl Shelton remembers the doctor calling her after her husband left the doctor's office. She was told to keep her eye on him, and she “did neuro checks on him all night.” By 9 a.m. the next morning she knew his condition was deteriorating.
“He literally couldn’t keep his eyes open,” Cheryl Shelton said.
She called the squad, and Willie Shelton was taken to Pomerene Hospital, where a CT scan showed a glioblastoma terminal brain tumor.
“They are very fast and aggressive," Cheryl Shelton said.
She explained how her husband was transferred to The James at Ohio State University, where they operated on the tumor and “removed 98-99 percent of it.”
While this is not a cure, it will buy them time, but in spite of radiation, continued chemo and an optune, the tumor has continued to grow.
An optune is a head covering that creates low-intensity electric fields that should slow or stop the cancer cells from dividing. In Willie’s case, it hasn’t worked.
Further complicating issues, Willie Shelton developed blood clots in his body, which have swelled all the way to within centimeters of his heart.
“His doctors have told him he is a ticking time bomb for a stroke,” Cheryl Shelton said.
Because the Sheltons have only lived in their house since November, they were amazed and grateful for the neighborly support. Their next-door neighbors, Charlie and Valerie McFadden, put up hand rails and a ramp and regularly mow their yard. Others have stepped up as well.
Cheryl Shelton’s boss at Holmesville Electric has given her an extended leave of absence, and family and friends have stepped in to keep their spirits up and help out. Their church family at Millersburg Christian Church has been particularly supportive, and Cheryl Shelton said fellow congregants visit regularly.
“It does us both so much good to have people stop in and spend time with us. We love that they are praying for us,” she said.
Willie Shelton explained how people can support him and his family. “Many have said, ‘You got this.’ But I don’t because I don’t have this; it is cancer. We can’t make it go away. Just pray with us and walk through this with us.”
Cheryl and Willie Shelton were especially touched when the Amish community rallied around them to help make applesauce from the Sheltons' trees and prepare food to serve at a recent benefit. Mattie Troyer, an Amish neighbor, regularly watches the two girls and arranged for the applesauce-making event.
“We’re so grateful for Mattie and have tried to keep the girls’ schedules as normal as possible. They know things are different, but we are working to keep their lives as uninterrupted as possible.”
These two little girls — Gracie, age 4, and Sami, age 3 — who were adopted by the Sheltons a few years ago, are part of Willie’s resolve to keep fighting.
“I just want to be able to wrestle with my girls, tuck them in at night, watch them graduate, walk them down the aisle and do all the normal things that fathers get to do," Willie Shelton said. “It’s really a hard place to be. I want to beat this and live a long time, but that’s not a promise I can keep. I pray that this is something that will be taken away and that I will be cured so I can watch my children grow up.”
To help the Sheltons with their financial needs, donate at www.gofundme.com/willies-fight.

Published: September 11, 2017
New Article ID: 2017170909952