A NABS Christmas Story
This is a Christmas story of a different sort.
A year ago around this time a man was diagnosed with cancer.
He was a good man – worked hard all his life. He was largely successful until the economic meltdown of 2008-09 when he lost everything overnight. Since then he had been trying to rebuild. He had been doing a series of awful low paying jobs to make ends meet.
But when a person hears the “C word” their whole world stops at that minute.
The man walked out of his doctor’s office in a daze – he was going to die.
In shock the questions flooded in: How long did he have? How is he going to tell his kids? (The man had 2 daughters in their mid 20’s.) What is he going to do if he can’t work?
Thus began a difficult journey.
The man was sent to an oncologist who outlined a course of treatment. He needed an operation to remove a cancerous lump followed by a course of chemo but before that he would need to have his teeth pulled to remove any potential source of infection because the chemo kills the immune system and even the slightest infection can get wildly out of control.
There were other problems: Because the man was earning so little he simply could not afford to take the time off work to do all this.
But ultimately his body made the decision for him – by the end of May he became simply too weak to work – too weak to even climb a set of stairs.
So he began treatment: First the operation to have the lump removed.
Then possibly the most horrific experience – having all his teeth removed. The dental freezing didn’t work. They tried several re-injections but by the time it was determined it wasn’t working they were already too far into the operation to stop. So it was 2 and a half hours of the worst pain imaginable.
Then came the chemo – once a week he would go to the cancer agency, get hooked up to an IV drip and for about 4 hours each time get injected with poison to wipe out the cancerous cells and everything else along with them.
All of this had taken well into the summer. To say it all was debilitating physically, mentally and emotionally to the man would be an understatement.
And then things got worse.
When they pulled the man’s teeth they said he would need $1300 for replacement dentures. The man had assumed once he had the new teeth he would be able to get back to work and pay the bill. But then he was told he had to pay that fee up front.
This was another blow. He was now in a catch-22. He couldn’t get a job without having teeth and he couldn’t get teeth without a job.
Moreover he had by this time exhausted all his financial resources. He was down to a monthly stipend of $1210 from EI. His monthly overhead was $1750. So every month going forward he would be short $550. He was behind on rent. His phone was about to be cut off. He was running out of food.
It had also become apparent from the chemo that he would be too weak to work for months. He had tried to do a few odd jobs and simply couldn’t do them. The effect of chemo is it knocks one completely flat. His oncologist said it could take up to 6 months for the chemicals to clear from his system.
He remembers one day in late summer sitting on a bench assessing the realities of his situation. He remembers thinking it was all over. All doors had closed. There was nothing further that could be done. He began to think through what would be the best way to die so he didn’t malinger and become a burden on his 2 daughters and others around him.
He reflected back on the people he had known through his life and texted a few of them simply to say he was not doing so well but just wanted to say it had been really good knowing them. He was saying good bye.
Then the strangest thing happened.
One of the friends he had texted, a good friend he had known for over 35 years since they were both young bucks starting out in advertising, replied saying “contact NABS”.
Now that was something the man had never thought of. He knew NABS because he had done volunteer work for them in the past but he never thought he would be on the receiving end from them.
So even though it was against his nature to ask anybody for anything he thought maybe if NABS could just help him out on a temporary repayable basis to help him get his teeth back that might at least give him a bit of a chance to gain a foothold.
The friend had said to contact a woman named Loraine Brown. So he reluctantly wrote an email explaining his situation and sent it to this Loraine Brown woman.
What happened then was nothing short of miraculous.
Loraine was back in touch with the man immediately. The first thing she said was not to worry – NABS would cover the cost of getting his teeth back. This was an enormous relief. For the first time in a long time the man had a glimmer of hope.
But she did not stop there. She asked the man a range of questions: Do you have food? (not much) How much do you need to keep your phone going? How far behind are you on your rent? What else do you need?
It turned out this Loraine Brown woman was relentless! (in a good way)
Within a few days she appeared at the man’s door to hand-deliver an emergency funds cheque for $750. All of a sudden he could catch up his rent, stop his phone from being cut off and fill up his fridge with good fresh food.
This was a miracle. When she left the man privately cried and said a prayer of thanks. There was more hope.
And the miracle continued. One of the residual problems was the monthly cash shortfall of $550. This created a situation of unrelenting stress for the man. He would go to bed every night and would lie awake wondering what he was ever going to do to solve this and would get up in the morning and worry all day.
But within weeks Loraine had set the man up with Monique Madan to do a financial assessment and setup a temporary assistance program. They even arranged a series of sessions with Dr. Mario Testani a psychological counselor to make sure the man was okay mentally and emotionally.
It was as if the man had suddenly been surrounded by a family of angels. Suddenly he could rest and sleep and focus on getting well.
So what is the purpose of this story?
Well if you have not guessed already – the man in this story is me – KS
I wanted to write it to each and every one of you in NABS – those I know and those I haven’t had the privilege of meeting yet.
And the reason I wanted write it to you is just to say: As you enjoy the Christmas season whether you are sitting at Christmas dinner with loved ones or reflecting on this past year – if you have done nothing else – you saved a man’s life this past year. And I will always be beyond grateful.
There are also 2 daughters out there who still have a Dad and they would also like to thank you for that.
How am I now? Well I still have a ways to go but I’m getting there. By the time the chemo ended my energy level was about 3%. Because I have now been able to rest and recover without all the debilitating stress I am probably up to about 55% and hopefully am getting better all the time.
But one thing is for sure. I am a million miles away from that day on the bench thinking it was all over.
So thank you. From the bottom of my heart – thank you.