On February 28, 2000, my husband Gary was diagnosed with cancer. He was given less than six months to live. He was 47, and I was 45; our daughters were eight and nine. We knew our life would never be the same from that day on.
We both worked in the human services sector, more specifically, the non-profit world. At the time we did not know that our employers and the employees of our agencies would become the lifelines that we would hold onto dear life.
Gary worked for the United Way of the Alberta Capital Region and had been there for just over a year. Looking back, I do not think it would have mattered if had been there only a week. His employer was compassionate, supportive, and willing to put whatever we needed into place to make it as easy as possible for Gary. All staff members in the agency went out of their way to let Gary know that they would do anything to make his last days with us as comfortable and peaceful as possible. They visited him at home, sent him funny cards and called on the phone just to say hello. They were more like family than co-workers. Any paperwork needing to be done was approached in the kindest and most personal way I have ever witnessed. On the days when Gary could in and spend some time at work, arrangements were made quickly and effortlessly. He was always made to feel that he was still part of the team and that his input was highly valued.