Facing a life-limiting illness is not easy at any age. Facing it when you are 41 with a husband and three young children presents unique challenges. For Donna Marchand, she faced it with grace, optimism and a quiet dignity that provided inspiration for those around her. As a business person, Donna’s husband Jason is used to dealing with staff, but he had never seen the calibre and the dedication of those working on the An
As part of a big, close-knit and supportive family, it was important to have the space and freedom to spend time together. The family was grateful for the opportunity to do so, and as Jason said, the kitchen was well used, with family often sharing their meals with others on the unit. He recalls with deep appreciation the kind and compassionate gestures from staff and volunteers throughout their stay. “The nurses putting cream on Donna’s hands, making sure she was as comfortable as possible,” said Jason. He was especially touched when one nurse came in two hours before her shift, equipped with gingerbread men and everything needed to decorate them, much to the delight of their kids.
Jason said Donna was always optimistic about her illness, but as the medical staff said, they were dealt a bad hand, when the cancer spread to the stem cell in her brain. As a couple, the two spoke about their life purpose after surviving a first round of cancer in 2014. Donna felt her purpose was to help people as best she could. In fact, she lived by the motto, “if you can be anything in this world, be kind.”
As her illness progressed, her headaches were aggravated by any amount of sound or light. Cardboard over the windows helped, as did her faith and the love and support of her family. Donna left her mark on those around her, including her family and the medical staff who cared for her. “The staff were angels,” said Jason. “Not everyone could do what they do, but I couldn’t tell you one thing they could improve upon or do better. They did everything right.”
Jason says the two fit a lot into their lives, and didn’t have a lot of regrets. They travelled, they enjoyed their time together and made a lot of memories. Donna passed away at the age of 41 on Canada Day in 2017. A date that also means a lot to Alan MacDonald, the Co-ordinator of the Society’s Bereavement Program. He too lost his wife on Canada Day, at the age of 41 several years ago. Jason said the calls from Alan and the chats over coffee help a lot. “It’s nice to have someone to bounce things off,” said Jason. Alan calls every month, he listens. It’s nice to have that.”
Today, Jason and his children do their part to brighten the days of those working and volunteering on the Unit. On special occasions, they put together treat bags for the rooms and the staff. “We were blessed to have Donna for as long as we did,” said Jason. “I think she would be pleased we’re doing something to show how grateful we are.” Proving that once again, Donna continues to inspire those who loved her.