Family turns up the volume to fight MS

Dad uses music to get back into shape; son sets up benefit concert

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian Arts & Features Reporter



What: Benefit for Team Road Kill, Ron Haye's MS Society fundraising bike team.

Who: The Shivas and The Gunnar Roads Band.

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Where: Kiggins Theater, 1011 Main St., Vancouver.

Cost: $10 donation at the door.

What: Benefit for Team Road Kill, Ron Haye’s MS Society fundraising bike team.

Who: The Shivas and The Gunnar Roads Band.

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Where: Kiggins Theater, 1011 Main St., Vancouver.

Cost: $10 donation at the door.

As Ron Haye undertook the fight of his life, the rock ’n’ roll music in his ear buds provided the soundtrack that spurred him on.

The Beatles. Springsteen. Johnny Cash. Dave Matthews. They pounded his ears while he pounded the treadmill at the gym — trying to lose weight and get in shape so multiple sclerosis couldn’t press its advantage.

“Music was something that helped get me through it. I could listen and I could focus on that,” Ron said. His symptoms would be raging — numbness, fatigue, overheating — but he could focus on the electricity, the harmony, the beat, and keep on going.

All the while, Ron’s son, D.J., was serving in the Coast Guard — living at stations across the nation and overseas. He was just on his way out of the area, about two years ago, when his father got his diagnosis. Since then, D.J. hasn’t been able to participate as the tight-knit Haye family and its supportive community of friends pulled even closer together on Ron’s behalf.

“It’s tough because it happened right when I was leaving,” D.J. said. “When I got back, I knew I wanted to spearhead something for my dad, myself.”

Now D.J., who returned home in August, has thrown himself — and the love of rock ’n’ roll he shares with his dad — into the family cause. He enlisted a handful of friends who play in popular local bands to put on a fundraising benefit concert for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

That concert is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Kiggins Theater in downtown Vancouver. The Shivas and the Gunnar Roads Band will play.

“I knew I wanted to do a concert,” said D.J., 23, who graduated from Hudson’s Bay High School. “My friends are really close to me and my family and they were really interested in helping out.”

New normal

It was around two years ago that Ron Haye, 46, began noticing some numbness and tingling on his left side, along with “a fatigue I can’t even explain,” he said. He lived in denial for a few months, until a chiropractor friend urged him to see a neurologist. The diagnosis of multiple sclerosis came soon after that.

He kept working his construction job, but also faced up to the fact that he was way out of shape — he’d let himself go pretty badly, he said. And there was no question that he’d have a better time fighting MS if his body was in shape. So he undertook a strict regimen of healthy dieting and vigorous exercise, and started coming down from 230 pounds.

“He’s lost, like, 50 pounds,” said D.J. “He looks like he’s in college.”

Ron has also had to endure routine, painful injections of powerful medications that sometimes wipe him out for days. He’s still exercising, dieting and getting those injections now — and still accepting the symptoms he carries, the things his body can no longer do.

“You learn a new normal,” he said. “You have a new level to go with, and you go with it.”

That new normal includes involvement with the Portland chapter of the National MS Society and its many fundraising events — especially the annual bike ride, held every August. Spurred by a friend, Ron rode 65 miles and wound up nearly weeping in the beer garden at the end of the event — because he felt so great.

“I never thought I would feel that way again,” he said. “As long as I continue to challenge myself, I won’t become complacent.”

He is full of gratitude for the MS Society and the work it does — supporting people with the disease and fundraising for medical research. Ron’s wife, Terry, said she’s optimistic about a major breakthrough within Ron’s lifetime. “That’s why it’s super important to support the MS society,” she said.

It was a whole year, Ron added, before he broke his very strict diet and enjoyed some Taco Bell one night. It was so tasty, he said, that he realized he’d better get strict again.

“I can’t control what the disease does to me but I can control what I do to the disease,” Ron said.

Oil rig, rock room

D.J. signed up for the Coast Guard without realizing it could send him all around the world, he said. He served in New Jersey, California, North Carolina, and Virginia before deploying to Iraq for eight months. He was a member of an eight-man crew that did daily security detail on offshore Iraqi oil rigs and U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf, he said. Meanwhile, his father was dealing with the new normal.

“It’s a confusing, complicated, misunderstood disease and I was on the other side of the world,” said D.J. “That was hard.”

Already devastated by multiple sclerosis, Ron and Terry were alarmed as revolutions broke out across North Africa and the Middle East last spring — while their son was stationed there. Their worry increased when Osama bin Laden was killed — would there be trouble?

There wasn’t any. D.J. said he was fascinated and cheered to watch those events unfold. His parents were cheered to welcome him home to Walnut Grove in August. Now, D.J. works at the Regal Vancouver Plaza 10 movie theater, and puts in his Coast Guard time one weekend per month.

Meanwhile, the tight-knit family hangs out in their rock ’n’ roll room — a little chamber plastered from floor to ceiling with rock posters, album covers, a CD library and other musical memorabilia. Ron and Terry laughed recalling how they used to take their two young sons (D.J.’s older brother is Steve) to weekend-long Dave Matthews Band festivals at The Gorge Amphitheater in central Washington. Then they got rock-wonky while comparing just how many DMB concerts each one has been to — so far.

“Music has always been a big part of our lives,” Ron said. “The Beatles have always been our foundation.”

D.J. concluded: “It’s nice to be able to tell my friends, my parents rock.”

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