Battling demons

Danette Dooley
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Des Wheeler keeps the faith as he struggles with addiction, health problems

Life meant nothing to Desmond Wheeler until he was told it would likely soon come to an end.

A life-threatening illness has helped Desmond Wheeler turn his life around and now he’s trying to help others. —?Photo by Danette Dooley/Special to The Telegram

The St. John’s native was diagnosed with an aggressive blood cancer called acute myelogenous leuke-mia more than a year ago.

He was told without treatment, he had about two weeks to live.

“It wasn’t until I actually thought I was going to die I made the choice to turn my life around,” he says.

The victim of sexual abuse at a young age, Wheeler admits he abused drugs and alcohol for about a decade. His addiction ruined relationships and left him estranged from his wife and two children.

He has a third child from another relationship.

Wheeler blames no one for the fallout except himself.

“I was abusive. I sought counselling and I wanted to stop. I didn’t like who I would become when I used,” he said.

Eight years ago, Wheeler went to jail for theft.

At the time, it was a blessing in disguise, he said.

“It wasn’t until I actually thought I was going to die I made the choice to turn my life around." — Des Wheeler

“I stayed clean and sober for six whole months. I felt good about myself for the first time in many years.”

A stubborn addict who found help at the Humberwood Treatment Centre in Corner Brook on several occasions, he always found his way back to liquor and pills.

When he first began having dizzy spells and trouble breathing, Wheeler knew something serious was wrong.

“There are many types of leukemia. Some are very treatable, others are surely a death sentence. ... I had the worst case.”

His leukemia eventually went into remission with chemotherapy and other treatments, but he was told there was a 70 per cent chance the disease would return.

His best chance of survival was a bone marrow transplant.

Continued on next page...


Organizations: Humberwood Treatment Centre, Anglican Church

Geographic location: Halifax, Corner Brook, Zambia Korea St. Thomas

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