Deep Sibling Bond Leads Brother to Honor Sister’s Memory
As two of five children in the Paroian household, Phil and Sherry had a special bond as the eldest in the family. Growing up one and a half years apart this brother and sister had a relationship that went beyond a kinship between siblings; they were friends. “When I was very young, my parents were concerned that I was mentally challenged because I didn't speak until quite late, which is ironic given what a talker I am now,” Phil explained. “I’m told I spoke in gibberish, but somehow Sherry always knew what I meant even though no one else did.”
This communication between brother and sister carried on throughout their adulthood. From competing together in quarter horse shows as adolescents to becoming roommates at college, and including Sherry asking Phil to stand with her at her wedding as her witness or “maid of honor,” they were there for each other in good times and bad.
When Sherry was diagnosed in 1997 with pulmonary hypertension, Phil remembers what a blow it was to the entire family. “For so long Sherry was being misdiagnosed despite presenting symptoms such as shortness of breath,” Phil said. “The doctors were telling her that she just needed to get in shape, but she knew that it was something more.” Sherry, whom Phil described as “wickedly determined, smart, and resourceful amongst other things” got on the internet and came up with her own diagnosis: pulmonary hypertension. Soon afterwards, her diagnosis was confirmed by a specialist.
Throughout her journey with PH, Phil watched his sister show great strength. “Despite being diagnosed in 1997, she continued to show horses, qualified for the American Quarter Horse World Championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002, and placed in the top 10 at the largest quarter horse show in the world in 2002,” Phil recalled. “That was just the kind of person she was, she wasn’t going to let this disease affect her quality of life.” She showed for the final time in October 2003 and worked full-time until the end of 2003.
Sadly in early January 2004 Sherry lost her battle with PH. Right from the day she was diagnosed, the Paroian family has advocated for PH patients around the world. While living in Canada, Phil’s parents led the fight against PH in conjunction with the PHA Society of Canada and raised funds for medical research and education. Here in the U.S., Phil supports the Pulmonary Hypertension Association’s efforts each year with a generous annual gift in Sherry’s memory.
“Each day I miss talking with Sherry and laughing with her,” Phil concluded. “I give to PHA because I understand all too well how important it is.”