For the love of a friend
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series about how those dealing with serious disease find the positive.
To understand the depth of Terry Nelson’s illness, one must first realize the unshakable bond between the 43-year-old mother of three suffering from a rare disease and the woman who would save her.
For the past month, Nelson has battled the effects of Lyme disease from a hospital bed in a Reno health clinic, walking each night to a motel room across the street, a short journey Nelson once believed she’d never be able to take.
Nelson, who lives south of Grass Valley on a ranch where one of her beloved horses waits for her return, suffered for years the aches, pains, fatigue and spells of unconsciousness she is only now beginning to understand.
It is because of the love of Andrea Lemarche, a kindred soul who shares much of the same story of life’s bumpy road that Nelson had, that Terry Nelson may one day ride her beloved horses again.
Nelson’s return to health is being facilitated in part by donations and Lemarche’s self-financing efforts – all in the name of friendship.
“There’s no word I can use to describe her,” Nelson said a few weeks ago, reached at her home after spending Thanksgiving with family. “Ours is more than a friendship, a relationship and a sisterhood blessed by God. The days I couldn’t take it anymore, all I had to do was call her up and she’d be there.”
By her own account, and the accounts of those closest to her, Terry Nelson was the strong-willed one, the independent spirit who never asked for assistance. As a child, Nelson lived all over the United States, bouncing from town to town. When she married, Nelson’s oldest daughter said her mother, an avid watcher of “The Waltons” on television, yearned for the life that played out on silver screens weekly – the image of a close-knit family led by a strong but loving matriarch.
“When we were growing up, she said she was the mom but she never wanted to fully grow up so she could have fun,” said Jenny Carson, the oldest of Nelson’s three children.
That meant hiking, horseback riding, raising chickens on the family ranch, camping, pottery – anything to keep herself active, Carson said.
Always, Carson said, her mother would be asking who needed help, never seeking much in return.
But when Terry Nelson began experiencing chronic pain about 10 years ago, she never told anyone. For about six years every winter, Carson said her mother contracted pneumonia, and never told a soul.
“My mom hides (pain) very well,” said Carson, 25. “She’s a fighter.”
About four years ago, Carson said, her mother briefly lost consciousness.
That’s when the family – Carson and her two brothers, Nelson’s husband Chuck, and Lemarche – became concerned.
They went to many doctors who came back with diagnoses ranging from multiple sclerosis to Lou Gehrig’s disease, to chronic fatigue and Lyme disease, a malady carried largely by ticks for which there is no known cure.
Gaining that diagnosis was difficult, and the results weren’t always conclusive, which is why Nelson’s insurance company, PacifiCare, isn’t paying for the alternative treatment to fight Lyme disease. Only recently was the Reno-based Century Wellness Clinic able to find a conclusive diagnosis.
Nelson herself isn’t sure how she contracted the disease, which can stay dormant for an extended period of time, but she believes it was during a camping trip over a decade ago.
Just a few short weeks ago, Carson found her mother unconscious in bed, and said she believed that without immediate help, her mother would die.
“I was terrified,” said Carson, who said the only reason she believed her mother wasn’t dead was because she was still warm.
“It was scary,” she said. “My mom is one of my best friends. To know who she used to be and how she was deteriorating grieved me. It was kind of like I had lost somebody.”
That’s when Nelson and her doctor, Byron Lake, decided to try alternative methods to help make her life better.
Lemarche has taken out a six-figure loan to help pay for her friend’s treatment and care.
The loan is one of the reasons Lemarche has postponed plans to move from her family’s Chicago Park-area home.
“If we have to stay here longer, we’ll stay here longer to save our friend,” Lemarche said. “What else am I going to do?”
Lemarche first met Nelson at church, and said she instantly formed a fast friendship. Together, the two discovered faith, family, shared stories of their difficult childhoods, and Lemarche credits Nelson for helping Lemarche develop a stronger relationship with her husband, Pete.
The family routinely spends the holidays together, and Terry Nelson hopes to be home for Christmas. By this time next year, Nelson plans on horseback riding and driving to Roseville’s Galleria Mall full of energy, and returning to Sierra Outreach Ministries, where she volunteered at the church’s food closet.
But it will take sheer faith and the unfailing work of a true friend to make it happen, Terry Nelson said.
Lemarche says simply: “I’ve been blessed. She’s always been there for me.”
“I can’t think of anybody who would do something like that,” Nelson said of the fund her friend established. “There’s a lot of people who write a check, but for Andrea, there’s actions behind her love…and she doesn’t see this as a burden.”
Donations for Terry Nelson1s treatment of Lyme disease can be sent to Bank of America, account No. 11234-02035, and may be made in her name.
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