Darren Smith was working in Northern Ontario when he was diagnosed with cancer. The news brought him back to his parents who had moved to Cape Breton. During his first visit to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital he learned that his cancer was far more advanced than he had imagined. It was stage 4 and terminal and he was given six months to live. Darren passed away 18 months later.
Darren’s Mom, Brenda Burton speaks of the experience at the Hospital and the An Cala Unit as nothing but positive. “On every step of our journey, the care and support was excellent,” says Burton. Being new to the area, Darren and his family didn’t know a lot of people, and she says the staff and volunteers became extended family.
Darren spent time on the unit on a few occasions and was always appreciative of the fact he had his own space and his own TV. His last visit to the unit was in December and his Mom remembers how wonderful it was to be able to take advantage of the near by kitchen to enjoy coffee or some home made baked goods that were offered daily.
She remembers getting a picture of Darren by the tree and how much the family appreciated the home-like atmosphere around them. “On the unit, they thought of everything,” says Brenda noting how appreciative the family was of the available play space on the unit for Darren’s niece and nephew. “They had a chance to see their uncle, then they could go and play freely.” She recalls how much the flowers, little gift bags and simple acts of kindness meant to Darren. “He was young, but those gestures meant a lot to him.”
Burton also recalls how important it was for Darren to attend Rotary’s Ribfest. For three years, the Hospice Society benefitted from the proceeds given at the gate. Even when he wasn’t feeling well, he wanted to attend so he could contribute to a cause that had become so important to him.
During his stay, Darren and his Mom spent time watching the World Junior hockey tournament together. He wondered if others were as lucky as he, with a television and the space to enjoy their favourite shows as a family. As the two were enjoying the games, Darren said “we have to pay it forward Mom, can you do that for me?”
Darren was always sensitive to the needs of others. As the disease and the medications began to alter his personality, he would apologize for his inability to settle. Brenda is so grateful for the care he received, and takes comfort in the fact that her son did not suffer.
Brenda took Darren’s words to heart, and provided a very generous gift to the An Cala Unit. As a result, the Society was able to purchase new televisions for several of the rooms on the unit, so that others can enjoy their favourite shows as Darren did.
Darren had asked his Mom to keep paying it forward, we are so grateful to Darren and his family for doing so.