Fletcher finds family support in community

Goodrich — When the doorbell rings at Cheryl Fletcher’s house, her dog yips excitedly.
Missy, who “thinks she’s a lap dog”, affectionately nuzzles a visitor’s hand.
“She thinks people are coming to see her,” says Fletcher.
The endless stream of company seems like family to Fletcher, whose life has drastically changed since she was diagnosed with Primary Chronic Progressive Multiple Sclerosis nine years ago. The disease has progressed quickly, she said.
“It goes fast, faster than I thought it would at first,” Fletcher said. “At first I could walk and read, but now my eyes are affected.”
A slender figure in a dark blue sweatsuit, Fletcher shifts slightly in her recliner, a pillow on her lap. A bulky cassette player becomes uncomfortably heavy on the cushion. Across the room is a wheelchair, now handy for everything from trips to the bathroom to outings to church or visit family.
Fletcher, a former English teacher in the Brandon School District, is more used to giving than receiving. Before her illness, Goodrich United Methodist Church members counted on her to teach Sunday School and lead Bible studies.
Now her need for care is constant. At first, church and community members volunteered to take shifts.
“We needed to hire someone and didn’t have the money,” said the Rev. Karl Zeigler, pastor of the Goodrich United Methodist Church.
Goodrich businessman Everett Pitkin and church member Karen Warner organized a fund-raiser run to address the need. With 189 runners involved, the event earned $7,700. An October golf outing at the Goodrich Country Club netted more than $12,000, bringing in nearly $20,000 total for the Cheryl Fletcher Care Fund, Ziegler said.
Along with the church and the Goodrich community, support has come from the Clarkston schools, where Fletcher’s husband Bob is a math teacher, and friends from all over.
Fletcher’s company says they get more out of their visits than she does.
“I really felt like I gained more from my going than I was able to give,” said Vera Noll, a former Sunday School student.
“And I don’t get it,” says Fletcher with a laugh.
After last spring’s tracheotomy—an opening in her windpipe—Fletcher sips out of a children’s cup instead of using a straw. Doctors advise her to eat a high-protein diet to gain weight, and it’s difficult for her to speak for long periods. She misses camping and hiking with her three sons, and reading.
But discouragement doesn’t seem to be a word that Fletcher knows.
“Goodrich has been good to us,” she says, recounting the many friends who are “so great”. Physical assistance, meals, prayers, and a constant outpouring of caring has seen her through her prognosis, along with her faith in God.
“(Faith) gives a reason for everything, because without that why would you have life?” said Fletcher. “I know why I’m here and what I can do and who I can pray for. I have a reason.”
“Maybe I can’t do as much physically as I used to, but hey, watch out,” she said.