Valerie MacNeil-Grant always wanted to be walked down the aisle. Her husband Stephen made it happen. In fact, Valarie told Stephen’s daughter Stephanie that she waited 60 years to marry the love of her life. They knew each other as kids, reunited, and she helped to nurse him back to health after he suffered two strokes. Then, Stephen became the caregiver after Valerie was diagnosed with ALS on their wedding anniversary. Caring for her at home became a full-time job, and with no paycheck coming in, finances became challenging. That’s when the Hospice Palliative Care Society of Cape Breton County stepped in.
Stephen recalls the morning he tried to turn on the heat, but there was no oil. When the medical staff visiting his home learned of the situation, they dealt with it quickly through contact with the Society office. Before long, a full tank of oil was provided for the family, and another one a few weeks after that. “Every day they (palliative care medical team) came into my home, and every day they made us feel better,” said Stephen. He was especially impressed by how forthright they were, adding that they wanted to focus on what was needed to make their day easier.
Through it all, Valerie maintained a positive attitude. She still enjoyed telling jokes, bingo and dances at the Legion. As Stephen said, “ALS didn’t take Valerie, she decided to go on her own.” He received a poignant reminder of her love even after she had passed away. Through her sister, Valerie had arranged for a card to be delivered to Stephen on their wedding anniversary.
Stephen adds that Valerie set out to live her life with faith, hope and a smile on her face, so caring for her was something she made easy, despite the demands of ALS. “The palliative care team provided so much support,” said Stephen. They listened. And they did whatever was needed to make us comfortable.”
Music therapist Jill Murphy was also a welcome visitor to their home, providing comfort and conversation through music. Stephen says those coming into their home became like family. “Valerie made every day beautiful,” said Stephen. “That’s also how the people coming into our home made her feel.”