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Page last updated at 12:22 GMT, Wednesday, 3 February 2010
Terry tells of Sierra Leone and his wife's Alzheimer's
by Jenny Minard
BBC Berkshire Reporter

Terry and Mo with children
Terry and Mo with the children they helped in Sierra Leone in 2009

Imagine finding out you have cancer and that your wife has Alzheimer's, all in the same week.

That's what happened to Terry Murphy, director of Fuego Ministries - a charity which helps people in developing countries.

"I went in to have a gall stone removed in December 2004 and wasn't recovering well," he says.

"In January 2005 I had a scan and they said it was Non-Hodgkin Type Three Lymphoma.

"I didn't really know what it was. It's something to do with white blood cells; it keeps the immune system going.

"I was in hospital for two months and lost 60lbs in sixty days. I was a big guy so if I would have been thinner I probably would not have survived.

"I started chemotherapy and I was completely wiped out and weak. Infection would have finished me off."

Ministers step in

That's when members of the Jubilee Community Church, where Terry was a minister, came in.

"The leaders came in to anoint me every week. After about a month they came in and a massive shock went through my body and I fell to the ground.

"And I knew! One minute I had no strength and then the next I felt strength returning.

"I still felt weak but I was able to eat. I do still very much believe in working with medics - God's given us medical insight and knowledge.

"But the next time I turned up at chemo, the nurses said, 'Mr Murphy, you look really well,'.

"I wasn't about to stop the chemo but there was no nausea and no headaches. I think I was being protected from the effects of the treatment."

Terry with a chief fire officer in Sierra Leone

In remission

After six to eight weeks, in May 2005, Terry was told his cancer had gone into remission but he still goes for annual checks.

"I saw it as not just a disease but an attack on our future as ministers. I do believe in the personal devil, trying to put an end to our ministry, but he didn't succeed.

"We fought against it and beat it - that's my personal belief."

The doctors said it would take five years for Terry to return to his community development work with the ministries in Sierra Leone.

But then a year later he was told there was no reason not to go back.

But there was also another struggle facing Terry's life - his wife Mo had been told she had Alzheimer's in the same week he was diagnosed with cancer.

"When that happens, you think, 'this is beyond a joke,'.

"But my wife still goes out to Sierra Leon. It's not stopping us but it has slowed us down as Mo's needs are great.

"We are both season ticket holders for London Irish. We shout and cheer at games, Mo doesn't always know who is winning though."
Terry Murphy

"She has huge needs. She can't function. She can't handle money, make a cup of tea - she can just about dress and feed herself but she is dependent on me."

And coping with being a primary carer was tough says Terry, especially when he was ill himself.

"Our daughter was in America at the time and she came home to help.

"Mo was a bit more competent than she is now but we needed to put care in place when I was in hospital.

Help and support

But as Mo's Alzheimer's developed Terry admits they received a lot of support.

"It's taken a long time to put in place but now we have a lot of help.

"Charles Day Ward at St Mark's in Maidenhead has Mo for two days a week. On a Wednesday, a lady from Crossroads takes Mo out for the afternoon.

"Creative Support at the social services helps me out a few hours a week and we are entitled to four weeks of respite care.

"Mo went for a weekend to Clara Court in Maidenhead and we are looking at doing a week - so I can go off and have a little holiday."

Terry is also taking part in a scheme set up by the Princess Royal Trust for carers.

"They are paying for me to have art lessons. It helps to have a different focus and I think it's a brilliant idea."

mo with a child
Mo hugs a child in Sierra Leone

Being positive

Terry and Mo try not to let cancer and Alzheimer's prevent them from doing the things they want to do.

"People assume because you have a terminal disease you can't live your life.

"We are both season ticket holders for London Irish, we shout and cheer at games, Mo doesn't always know who is winning though," he laughs.

"I am a positive person and I do have moments of depression but the real bottom line is that I'm grateful to God for being alive."

The couple are still able to work out in Sierra Leone. They went out in April 2009 to help with a drug rehabilitation centre.

"Mo can't do the physical work," says Terry. "But she can be hands on with visiting - the cuddling and playing with children, a smile and being with people."

But Terry says they would not be able to do what they do without the support of River Church in Maidenhead.

"We get tremendous support from our church. They are amazingly supportive - they have a rota of people who help me out.

"Being part of a community is a life saver for us."

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