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Gone but never forgotten – A tribute to my late husband

Gone but never forgotten – A tribute to my late husband

Tony’s birthday is today. He would have been 65-years-old. July 19th is our anniversary and also marks 7 years and 2 months to the day since I lost my husband.

This is the story of how we met

It was October 1989 when we first saw each other. I needed a job to support my one-year-old son and myself. I was determined to be self-sufficient and so I applied for a job at the Western Star dealership in Kamloops.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw two people watching me enter the building. I’m not sure what made me look; I normally just carry on with the job at hand. I was nervous, but still something made me look.

I locked eyes with this dark haired fellow with curls that hung over his collar. He had the most contagious smile that made me stop and beam back at him… Surely not what my mother taught me!

I had a great interview and was called the next day with a start date for my new position. A way and means to support myself!

The day I started, I discovered who the two men were… The first my new boss and the second Tony Bliss, a field service representative from the Western Star factory. I remember being disappointed that I wouldn’t being seeing him daily before happily finding out that he visited every 6 weeks.

The months passed and Tony and I became friends, even went out for a few quiet dates. It was frowned upon to see coworkers, but if I had any work questions or concerns with a claim I was encouraged to call him. This is how it went on for a few years until I was headhunted by another company, so I moved on but never lost contact with Tony.

The road trip that changed everything…

The summer of 1994, Shaydon was just 6-years-old. When I wasn’t working, we did everything together; swimming, hiking, exploring, the park, anything to do with the outdoors. I was looking for something different and thought that maybe we should take a road trip like my mom used to do with us growing up. Of course, the place that came to mind was Kelowna… Wait, Flintstone Park is there… Who do I know in Kelowna?

I hadn’t talked to Tony in at least 6 months. I called, he was delighted, and a  trip was planned.

We no longer worked together and neither one of us was attached, so it began.

Within a year we’d bought a house and I moved to Kelowna to start a new life with Tony, along with my son and Tony’s young teens.

It seemed everyone in town knew and loved Tony. We could be off to do a simple shop that would take the normal person an hour tops, but not with him by my side. We’d get maybe 5 feet and we’d run into someone he knew… A chat and a few laughs later we’d be on our way – until the next meeting. This was how life went and it was magical. He was the first person I knew like this, so full of humour, wit, love, honesty, integrity… Fashion sense?!? Wait, did I mention mischief? And his smile; it could light up a room.

He was the first man I had ever admired and respected. I lost my father at a very young age of maybe 3 or 4 to an accident. My mother did an amazing job but couldn’t be that male figure… I know she tried.

A new life in Ontario

It was 2000 or 2001, and we had just heard the news that Western Star had been sold to Freightliner; two very different company models. Everyone, including Tony, was concerned for their positions. Tony was offered a position with Freightliner in Ontario. Neither one of us wanted to move but there was going to be very little opportunity left in Kelowna. So off we went, Tony settled into his new position and Shaydon and I learned to navigate Ontario. Who knew that these two provinces did things so different? I even had to learn how to find things in the phone book differently!

We found a house, renovated and settled in making loads of new friends in our neighbourhood and at the paddle centre. Still, we missed Kelowna and we were thousands of miles away from home. We came home every summer to stay connected.

A man worth remembering

It was the spring of 2007 and we’d just come home from a holiday in Costa Rica. I knew something was wrong but didn’t know what it might be; he thought it was the flu. Neither one of us was ready for what was to come next. He was diagnosed with a brain tumour. We fought it as best we could with the help of modern medicine, with some success. In the spring of 2009, we decided it was time to move home and make the most of our last day, months, years together.

I’ve been getting messages recently from some of his old work mates. One messaged a few days ago asking if he could share a photo in Tony’s memory for his birthday. Another has commented that “he was the best boss I ever had”.

I sometimes think that as time passes, people forget… This isn’t so.

When you’re a good person who cares for others, you’ll always be remembered.

Fuck Cancer!!! A blog about the disease that won’t leave my heart alone

Fuck Cancer!!! A blog about the disease that won’t leave my heart alone

It’s early Friday morning and I’m sitting here trying to sort out how I feel about this disease entering my home again.

This is where it started all those years ago when I began searching for answers for my husband.

It was Saturday and a beautiful April day. Shaydon, my son, had his weekly bowling league so off we went, leaving my husband, Tony, to rest as he thought he had the flu. He said he’d join us later if he felt better, which he did an hour or so later. When I saw him I started panicking inside; his right arm looked heavy and the side of his face was drooping. My mind went directly to his heart, thinking he’d had a stroke or heart attack… How did he get here safely?

Tony and I

I quickly calmed myself; a trait I have no idea where it came from but has become useful over the past years. I sat him down and started my calm questions and suggested that we go for some tests at the hospital, which he wanted no part of. Within minutes, bowling was over. He could be such a stubborn man, but everyone loved him and he could light up the room with his smile. I’m sure this combination helped to make him successful. But I wasn’t taking no for an answer. It was the weekend, so I called a friend who was a nurse in radiology and she directed us to the correct hospital. She had them waiting for us as she had her own suspicions about what was happening.

So many tests and monitors, but his heart was fine! So what was going on then?

A CT scan showed a mass in his brain. I’ll never forget that sinking panic consuming every part of my being. “Pull it together,” my mind kept shouting, “He needs your strength.”

That afternoon we were rushed to another hospital for an MRI and to consult with a neurosurgeon. The diagnosis was stage 3/4 Astrocytoma Glioma mutiforme… They wanted to operate the next day!

Tony stomping grapes at a Western Star convention

“Are your affairs in order?”

A question no one wants to be asked as we signed the consent forms. Tony was scheduled for an awake craniotomy the next day.

How could this be happening?!? This isn’t part of our PLAN!

We were just back from holiday and I knew he wasn’t right, he was tired beyond anything I’d seen before. He worked long hours, travelled a lot with his work and was constantly on his cell phone. I used to call it his crackberry; I hated that thing especially when it interrupted our time.

Honestly, I’d been watching him for months, he seemed forgetful and distant… I thought he may be having an affair as none of that was like him. He was the smartest man I had ever known, full of wit and humour and he heard and recorded in his mind what you’d said the first time. Reminds me of that saying “an elephant never forgets”.

Once the shock began to wear off the questions started. How did this happen? How long has it been brewing? What is the prognosis? What is the treatment?

The statistics, even with surgery, radiation and chemo, weren’t great. But we had hope that their regime would hopefully buy us more time.

There were no answers for how his cancer started; it certainly had NOTHING to do with the length of time he was on his cell phone or his diet… How did these professionals have no solid answers?!?

I’ve been rather inquisitive my whole life and I love getting to the bottom of things; finding the answers has always been important. So with my years of investigative training in this regard I, went to work looking for my own answers and my trust in the medical field had always been lacking.This is how I found a new direction in life and back to school I went to find my answers.

So, here’s me… A recovering husband at home after brain surgery, a young teen in high school, a job where I could spend a couple of hours in the office then complete the rest at home with the help of technology. Already a rather full schedule. I then enrolled in school, gathered my books and started reading. I can’t say I’ve ever read so much in my life. Most of these books were 400 pages plus. Research. Answers. Anything I could do to help reverse this horrific diagnosis/disease.

So this is how it all began.

Shaydon and Tony at KYC...the old club

Seven Years Later…

It’s been over seven years since Tony passed, leaving me a widow with a broken heart. So many things have happened since then…

Shaydon had an accident at work, creating paralysis in his lower body. He’s doing amazing and still recovering with more strength and movement in his legs all the time. He will walk again!

I met Alan on a return flight from California after getting Shaydon set up at a spinal cord rehab facility called Project Walk. It was the furthest I’d been away from my son since his accident and I had mixed emotions about leaving him.

My flight was late arriving in Carlsbad near San Diego. I knew it was going to be a long day, so I went for lunch while many others headed to the bar. It was a lovely setting with everything open to nature and it was a beautiful day. All I wanted to do was hop back in the rental car and head back to my son, but I had others to help at home.

I headed back to the departure lounge and sitting there, waiting, I noticed some of the passengers arriving back from the bar. One, in particular, had had too much to drink; he was an obnoxious fellow, insulting most, and then he decided to sit down next to me. I thought, “Try it… I dare you!” I was not in the mood to have anyone be rude to me. Not something I’d ever stand for. I know how to look after myself.

We were finally on board and this drunk fellow started in on the flight attendant, a beautiful woman who was standing for none of his bull. She stopped the plane not once but twice and I thought for sure he was going to be kicked off. He settled down with the help of a bloke sitting with him… I remember hearing their accents – English and Australian.

Thanks to this obnoxious fellow, we arrived later than anticipated and I wondered if I was going to make my backup flight out of LAX.

Alan and I off to a Jimmy Buffett function and the yacht club

I remember seeing this blonde fellow a few rows up ahead of me; he was anxious about making his connection too. Once we landed, he raced off the plane and I joined him shortly after at the United Airlines counter to sort out my connection. To my surprise, this long haired blonde man was talking about getting home to Kelowna… WHAT?! I’d never seen him before and he certainly would have stood out.

I could see the woman behind the counter was having difficulty understanding him with his Scottish accent so, in my annoyance, I quickly took over after I heard her suggest that he stay and enjoy LA until the next evening. He seemed genuinely appreciative as neither one of us thought staying in LA for another full day was going to be acceptable. We got as far as Seattle that night and we made it home in the morning.

We became friends over the coming months and he came to my rescue when a flight back to Carlsbad had been cancelled due to fog. He drove me there. 24 hours from door to door! What a trip.

Shay on his standing frame towering over Alan

Shaydon and Alan became fast friends and he won my heart in the months to come.

Life has been full of fun, adventure and happiness the last few years. Until the dreaded news that this spring brought.

Alan had been having some digestive concerns that led him to have a colonoscopy. Within minutes of the procedure, a tumour was found. Fuck cancer.