Sharin Care — Sharon Rathbone is still helping her community
The community remembers Sharon Queen Rathbone. She is remembered for her compassion, her charm and her dedication to serving others. She is also remembered for her fierce fight against chloangiocarcinoma, a rare cancer of the bile duct, that she sadly lost.
In early 2010, Rathbone began to suffer various health problems and sought treatment from numerous specialists, who could find no cause for her symptoms. She was certain that the doctors weren’t performing the right procedure and continued to be adamant in advocating for her health care needs. In June 2011, her determination led to the finding of a large mass on her liver, which was later determined to be chloangiocarcinoma.
Due to the severity of her case and the precision needed to safely perform a resection of her liver, she was immediately transferred to Duke University Medical Center; where 65 percent of her liver was removed.
When she returned home, she began treatments that ultimately proved to be ineffective. A new treatment — TheraSphere, which consists of millions of microscopic, radioactive glass microspheres being infused into the arteries that feed liver tumors — was recommended, but denied by her insurance, even after doctors’ appeals. Duke University offered the $150,000 treatment at half price, but Rathbone was still unable to afford it.
The community rallied around her in a series of fundraisers in 2011 intended to raise the $75,000 necessary for the surgery that could have saved her life.
“A little over two years ago, we began a campaign to raise money to help Sharon get surgery,” said Gloria Trull, Rathbone’s cousin and best friend. “Through the community, we raised quite a bit of money.”
Sharon’s Fight, a fundraising night of music and barbeque, took place Jan. 28, 2012, at Haywood Community College. Rathbone, unfortunately, died that day before the event.
“A portion of the money did go to Sharon's medical bills and some to help some others. The remainder has been sitting,” said Trull. “After careful thought and prayer, I teamed up with my niece, Morgan Rich, and we approached The Open Door about starting a program that would be called Sharin Care that will help others with their medical needs.”
Rich, 17, is a senior at Tuscola High School and was Rathbone’s cousin. For her senior project, she took on the responsibly of organizing Sharin Care with her aunt.
“When Sharon was in her later days, she knew the money wasn’t going to be used for herself,” said Rich. “She wanted my Aunt Gloria to start a fund for people who are in the same situation as her — those who can’t afford the right medical care.”
When Rathbone passed away, the family had collected approximately $68,000.
“I thought since the community was so kind two years that it would be nice for them to know their money is going to good use,” said Trull.
“The Open Door is going to use it, and they’ve never had a medical part in their organization,” said Rich. “This is going to start a whole new sector for them. They’re going to help people with co-pays, medication, dental work and etc.”
Sharin Care will be available to assist those who qualify for help with certain dental procedures, pharmaceutical help and need for gas assistance for medical appointments. On occasion, funds may be available for lodging family members of patients who require longer-term care in medical facilities that are not in the area.
The goal is to perpetuate this fund each year through financial gifts for this cause and an annual fundraiser sponsored by Rathbone’s family in which a percentage of the proceeds from the fundraiser will go to support the fight against cholangiocarcinoma.
“I miss her daily and think about her much, but I know she is smiling down knowing this money is going to help others,” said Trull.
The logo of Sharin Care is highly symbolic. "Sharin" sounds like "Sharon," and also means "share in the money;" the green circle represents the "o" in Sharon's name and is her favorite color; and the red over the "i" symbolizes Sharon's red hair.
“Sharon was selfless and I loved her dearly,” said Trull. “We were together her whole life. We both came from dysfunctional, poor families but somehow we had the will to want to do better. Truthfully, she was pulling me up each day.”
The Open Door invites the public to a special service of dedication for Sharin Care at 2 p.m. Friday, May 9, in the dining room of The Open Door, located at 32 Commerce St., Waynesville.
The service will include an explanation of how the community will benefit from Sharin Care, a family member reflecting on the life and passion of Rathbone and someone to share information on the rare form of cancer that Sharon experienced. There will be a reception following the service and refreshments will be served.
Those who wish to make contributions to The Open Door may send a check to The Open Door, 32 Commerce St., Waynesville, NC 28786.
“Sharon was my family, but to say she was just family or even just my best friend would be an understatement,” said Trull. “She was my true soul mate in friendship. Before she passed away, she told me, ‘Gloria, when you get to heaven we will be Siamese angels.’ I must tell you, I hold on to that, and cannot wait to be her Siamese angel.”