Living

She has Stage 4 cancer. But she’s ready for the adventure of a lifetime

Terrie Shelby of Vancleave might not look sick to the casual observer. To hear that she has Stage 4 breast cancer, someone might ask why she still has hair, for example.

Shelby, 36, isn’t using chemotherapy. That doesn’t mean she’s not sick. In addition to the breast cancer, she’s currently battling diverticulitis, which causes pain in her hip area.

Instead, she’s following a more natural protocol of treatment.

“I got the diagnosis in mid-January, and I knew I wanted to do this naturally,” she said. “It’s not that I’m super granola crunchy. I mean, we do go through the drive through sometimes. But I guess you could say we’re more conscientious about it.”

She also says a higher power is directing her choices.

“God just told me to do this. From the beginning, this has felt effortless,” she said. “There is literally nothing I can do about the path I’m on. I had come to Stage 4 cancer quickly.

“The first thing after I got the diagnosis is, I got the stuff for smoothies and started juicing,” she said. However, it began controlling her life. “I couldn’t keep up. I was so stressed, I developed a fear of food. I began to think if it tastes good, it must be bad.”

The company her husband, Scott, was working for in the oil industry when she was diagnosed offered international insurance. During his research, the Shelbys found that the type of cancer treatments that fit Terrie’s interests is offered in Germany. There was just one thing. The Shelbys have three children: Hazel, 6, Henry Isaac, 3, and Joanna, 2.

“I said, ‘I can’t go to Germany. I have three kids. Three little kids,’” Terrie said. Scott took care of that, and Terrie spent six weeks altogether in Germany.

“I had no idea I would have the detox issue I had,” she said.

Meanwhile, Scott’s job was eliminated, and so was the insurance. And their home in a quiet area of rural Jackson County was becoming too much for Terrie to think about. She looked at other people’s cancer stories online. She wanted something ... different. A way to manage priorities, to downsize.

It became available. The solution is a used travel trailer that will become the family’s home for the forseeable future. Scott is working on the interior to make it compatible for their needs.

“We can clean up the travel trailer in, like, 30 minutes,” Scott said. “I’m adding features to make it a travel-friendly home.”

The need is simply to travel the county and seek out stateside naturopaths and family physicians friendly to alternative medicine. They did a test run with their first road trip, to Georgia, to visit friends. Terrie and Scott wanted to make sure she could continue to make her treatment infusions, which she learned about in Germany, on the road.

“We wanted to explore, so we got to see the topiary man and The Button Museum, and we went to ‘the Lizard Man museum’ on the way,” Terrie said. The topiary man is Pearl Fryar of Bishopsville, South Carolina, who was made famous by the 2006 documentary “A Man Named Pearl.” The Button Museum, in Bishopsville, pays homage to Dalton Stevens, known as The Button King for his button-centric wardrobe and outsider art. The Lizard Man Museum is actually the Cotton Museum, also in Bishopsville, which has an exhibit featuring a popular subject of local lore.

“I knew we weren’t going back to our old life,” Terrie said.

“Travel on wheels is like medicine for her,” Scott said. “She’s a gypsy at heart, so it’s like medicine for her.”

The couple still has to sell their home and get the trailer completed. A fundraiser with music, food and a silent auction was held recently to raise money for their efforts.

Throughout it all, both say, the path has been cleared for them.

“I believe God has me on a journey,” Terrie said. “I can’t explain some of the things that have happened to me on this journey. There is no way you can deny this wild journey is one that God has me on.”

Tammy Smith: 228-896-2130, @Simmiefran1

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