Friends, Family – and Pillars – Support Family

The Donoghues have faced cancer and loss, but count on a community of support…

Photo by Michael J. ARVIZU Sharon and Richard Donoghue with their children Lauren, 10 months and Matthew, 2, at St. James the Less Church on Sunday.
Photo by Michael J. ARVIZU
Sharon and Richard Donoghue with their children Lauren, 10 months and Matthew, 2, at St. James the Less Church on Sunday.

By Michael J. ARVIZU

For the past four years, St. James the Less parishioner and La Crescenta resident Sharon Donoghue has had to battle a series of unfortunate events in her life.

In 2008, both of her parents passed away within one 24-hour period.

Tragedy struck yet again in 2010 when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma while pregnant with her first child, Matthew. Her unborn son was not given a good chance of survival; and the cancer was thought to be untreatable. To make matters worse, husband Richard, an officer with the California Highway Patrol, had just been reaccepted to the Highway Patrol Academy in northern California after having to leave in 2008 to be with Sharon as she coped with the loss of her parents.

All seemed to be looking up when Matthew was born healthy a few months later and Sharon was in remission after going through a series of intense chemotherapy sessions during her pregnancy. Doctors told her she would not have more kids, though.

Soon after bringing her new baby home, Sharon slipped and fractured her wrist, necessitating surgery to repair her broken bones. She would injure her wrist yet again prior to the birth of her second child, Lauren, a second baby doctors told her she would never have. Doctors would also discover Sharon’s cancer had returned during a routine follow up examination of her wrist.

“It was terrifying,” said Sharon as she held a fussy Matthew in her arms. “Every question I asked the doctors, there weren’t a lot of answers and a lot of empty answers. There are not a lot of pregnant women going through chemo. It’s been done, but every situation is different.”

Sharon not only had to face her medical challenge but in her weakened, post-chemo state, she also had to deal with running a household and raising her two kids while Richard, now a full-fledged CHP officer, was away at work, having long ago used up his sick and vacation time to be with Sharon.

“My co-workers at the office have been supportive and lenient,” said Richard.

In fact, the officers donated their own sick and vacation time so that he could continue to receive a paycheck while taking care of his wife at home.

Pillars of the Highway Patrol also stepped in help to help the Donoghues. Founded in 2010, the foundation provides support to families of CHP officers in times of need, said Executive Director Tamara Wallace. Foundation staff provides meals, runs errands, babysits, does laundry, or performs any number of things that families may need help with. Sharon needed help with pretty much all of these things, she said.

“It’s hard to accept help,” said Sharon. “When we started this journey, we realized that we were going to need help. When the cancer came back … I knew I was really going to need help. We didn’t have another choice.”

Between efforts from Pillars and the surrounding community, the foundation has already raised over $3,000, money that will assist Sharon and her family with continuing medical costs and other expenses. One such community fundraiser was held at St. James the Less Church in La Crescenta on Sunday. The fundraiser featured a variety of food truck cuisines visitors could sample, with a portion of the food truck lunch sales earmarked for the Donoghues.

The church also hosted a Cedars-Sinai blood drive and Be the Match bone marrow drive. Because of her cancer, Sharon is no longer eligible to donate blood. By giving others the opportunity to donate, Sharon feels she is able to give back for all she has received, she said. More than 75 people donated blood during Sunday’s drive, said Cedars-Sinai blood drive coordinator Dave Keys, which was held from 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the parish hall.

“We’ve had a tremendous response; we’re very pleased,” said Keys. “What I think that says is how many people want to support the family. So you got local family support for the Donoghue family, you also have a lot support here from the Highway Patrol. They support because they take care of their own.”

Sharon’s doctors say she is in remission from cancer, but she is still keeping her fingers crossed.

“It’s been a struggle for her and her family,” said family friend Doris Gaither. “Immediately the community around her stepped up and they started helping. The one thing that I’ve always admired about Sharon is that she’s had an incredible outlook on life.”

Pillars of the Highway Patrol Foundation is collecting donations for the family. Donations can be mailed to Pillars of the Highway Patrol Foundation, 1197-C E. Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley CA 93065. Write “Donoghue Family” on the memo line of the check. Donations can also be made by visiting the foundation’s website