Church packed for Tyrell's funeral

  Tim Dueck escorts his son Tyrell Dueck's casket to the cemetery in Gruenthal, Sask., Saturday.(Saskatoon Star Phoenix)
Tim Dueck escorts his son Tyrell Dueck's casket to the cemetery in Gruenthal, Sask., Saturday.(Saskatoon Star Phoenix)


GRUENTHAL, Sask. (CP) - A light drizzle fell Saturday as 250 people packed a church in this tiny community to say goodbye to a boy who shunned conventional cancer treatment in favour of prayers and herbal remedies. Tyrell Dueck, who died Wednesday night in a Saskatoon hospital, was remembered for the joy he brought to his friends and family.

Tears streamed down Tim Dueck's face as he recalled how his son dealt with the cancer that started in his knee and spread to his lungs.

"When we got together the many months ago I said whatever you decide I'll be there," Tim Dueck told mourners at the Gruenthal Church, referring to when his son was first told he had cancer.

"I'll stand with you but you've got to decide" about what treatment you choose.

People across Canada followed the case of the 13-year-old after Saskatchewan's Social Services Department went to court to take charge of his medical care.

When told he needed chemotherapy and could lose his right leg to bone cancer, the reserved teen from Martensville, Sask., refused the treatment.

His decision ignited a debate over who should decide what's best for children - the patients and their families or the state.

Tyrell's family, who are fundamentalist Christians, believed prayer along with herbal and alternative remedies would cure Tyrell and kill the tumour in his leg.

During the funeral, Rev. Earl Gregory described how moved he was by Tyrell's faith in the face of death.

The pastor of the Gruenthal Church said Tyrell was "not one for complaining" about his struggle and the controversy it generated.

He took to task those who opposed the family's wishes but said the Duecks were sustained by their faith.

"Medicine will end with death. The legal system stops with death. The news stories stop with death.

"But a family's love and a faith in a God that is impossible to lie to does not end with death."

Church-goers were moved by Gregory's words and often interjected with shouts of "Amen," and "Hallelujah."

Inside the church, a board was adorned with a jersey from the NHL's Detroit Red Wings and a hunting outfit - two of the teen's most treasured mementoes.

The board was covered with dozens of pictures of Tyrell, his parents and two sisters. His family also inscribed it with his nickname and the words: "In loving memory of Relly."

Tim Dueck recalled how much his son loved to hunt.

"I lost my hunting buddy . . . no matter where I look you'll be there," he said, as he broke down.

"I don't weep for him but for myself for he is where I want to be," he added.

The Duecks said earlier this week they were at peace with their decision to pursue alternative treatment for Tyrell.

The courts intervened in Tyrell's treatment twice over the last seven months.

Both times judges decided to give Social Services the authority to determine his medical care but Tyrell balked.

The department gave up its fight in late March when doctors in Saskatoon found the cancer had spread.

Within days, Tyrell was admitted to a alternative treatment clinic in Tijuana, Mexico.

Treatments there range from the use of herbs, vitamins, and laetrile, an extract of apricot pits, to chemotherapy and radiation.

While Tyrell seemed to improve during his month-long stay at the clinic the family noticed his condition deteriorated within a week of returning home in April.

He spent the last week in palliative care.

A chronology of events in the life of Tyrell Dueck:

Oct. 1, 1985: Born.

October 1998: First sign of problem when Tyrell slips in the shower and notices a lump on his leg.

November 1998: Doctors discover bone cancer in his leg.

December 1998: Court gives Saskatchewan Social Services Department authority over boy's health-care decisions. March 17, 1999: Hearing into whether Tyrell was competent to make an independent decision on his treatment or if he was acting under influence of his parents.

March 18: Judge finds Tyrell not competent to make his own medical decisions . Upholds earlier ruling allowing Saskatchewan government to make medical decisions on his behalf.

March 21: Family lawyer announces cancer spread to Tyrell's lungs. Saskatoon doctors say they can do nothing more.

March 23: Arrives at Tijuana clinic for month-long stay to try alternative treatment.

June 30: Dies in St. Paul's Hospital in Saskatoon.

© The Canadian Press, 1999

Copyright 1999 Ottawa Citizen