Leaving our second home with tears in our eyes...

You know, I've never been much of a public speaker. Yet today, I'm speaking for two of us.
That’s because my partner Francine, since her surgery for vocal chord cancer, can't talk anymore. Her voice will come back, slowly, with exercise and the help of technology. But never like it was before.

Fortunately, in our 46 years of marriage, we've learned to communicate. And lately, I've become quite good at lip-reading. Anyway, I'd better figure out what she means fast or I'll get beaten up. Ha! Ha! Just kidding! My little sweetie wouldn't hurt a fly.
We make a really good pair. That's what the people at the Quebec Cancer Foundation told us during our stay at the Montreal Regional Centre last fall. Let me take you back there with me for a moment.

Living in Abitibi, we had to find help when we learnt of my beautiful partner's cancer. She had to receive her treatments in Montreal. Since they were fairly regular, going back and forth was unthinkable. Staying in a hotel all that time was even less thinkable; we don’t have that kind of money. Fortunately, the Quebec Cancer Foundation was there to bid us welcome!
We were lodged there for three months in all, benefiting every day from the personalized support that made our ordeal a little easier—including meals and transportation to the treatment site—and knowing that we could access various services if need be, from psychological assistance to complementary therapies.
Little by little, the Norman Fortier Lodge became our second home. And I’m aware that it is thanks to the donations of people like you that we were able to benefit from this service, which, believe me, is absolutely essential.
We made new friends there and we still write to each other to this day! There was one couple that was going through the same ordeal as us, and was from our part of Quebec too. When you’re going through something like that, it's amazing how meeting others who are experiencing the same thing can boost your morale.
I also realized how many residents from the regions there were at the Montreal Lodge. But that’s not so surprising, after all, since it's precisely for people like us that it was created in the first place, 40 years ago. So that they wouldn’t have to forego treatment due to a lack of means.
During the fall we spent at the Foundation, I played tricks on the employees and volunteers, who had become family friends for us. I played tricks on Lilly, who religiously drove us to the hospital in the minibus. On Nancy from housekeeping, who always took care of us. And on France at the reception, who was always smiling and welcoming. They called me the pest. I wonder why!
Of course, I didn’t always wear a smile throughout this adventure. When the diagnosis is announced, it’s like being hit on the head with a hammer. But after that, you have a choice of how you're going to deal with what comes next.
And thanks to your solidarity and the dedication of their priceless team, everything at the Foundation, was put in place to make us feel good, cared for and comfortable. So that we can find a way to enjoy our new daily life. And so that we can encourage each other by saying, just as millions of us are doing these days: "It's going to be all right!"...

As paradoxical as it may seem, we were rather sad when we left the Montreal Lodge to come back home. Not that we weren't happy to come back, quite the contrary. But we had forged ties with some very genuine people.
We were leaving what had become our home. It was the end of an experience that we will always remember, marked by hardship, certainly, but also by kindness and deep friendship.
I have to tell you: at the bell ceremony (it's a tradition at the Foundation, when residents leave after their treatments), quite a few had tears in their eyes. The big pest, the little sweetie and our friends from the Foundation. I guess we gave them something to remember us by as well!

Ghislain Houle, Senneterre, Abitibi ​

P.S. - Today, the worst is behind us, for both my partner Francine and me. But I’m thinking especially of people in Quebec who are facing cancer in these particularly difficult times.

I also often think of our friends at the Quebec Cancer Foundation who have to redouble their efforts and precautions in order to continue offering the services that the government deems essential in this age of coronavirus. I salute them: Lilly, Nancy, France, Marco and all the others. And I invite you to encourage them with a donation, by giving as much as you can afford. My partner and I can testify to this: what they accomplish on a daily basis is quite simply extraordinary. Thank you in advance! And above all, take care of yourself and all those you love!