Almost 10 years ago, Shawn Wood married his high school sweetheart, Emily Ann, in the Comox Valley — her dying wish.
The Comox Valley community rallied around the couple a decade ago as they got married on July 3, 2012 in Courtenay.
Emily was diagnosed with Stage 4 aggressive large-cell lymphoma in January of 2012 and underwent various chemotherapy treatments, but near the end of June, doctors told her the treatments weren’t working and gave her three to 12 months to live.
Her dying wish was to marry Shawn, and because the couple was short on cash due to health-related costs, Shawn reached out to the community for help. The community responded with offers of goods, services and cash streaming in from businesses and individuals right away.
Now, he has created the Emily Ann Foundation, an organization that bears the name of his late wife, with the goal to provide accommodation for family members of terminal cancer patients over the age of 18, while the patient undergoes treatment, and to facilitate final wishes.
“My goal is to get to $50,000, which will provide enough for me to be able to help at least one person with a decent wish and some really good accommodation backed up,” said Wood on the latest edition of the Comox Valley Record’s podcast, Off The Page.
“If there’s something that I can do, I will bend over backward to do it. I don’t really care what it takes. I would give the shirt off my back if I have to so it’s definitely really important to me for people to know that you shouldn’t be alone. And that’s become a bit of my mantra — no one should be alone is kind of the tagline for the foundation which I really believe — a lot of people feel they’re alone and I just I don’t want them to feel like that anymore.”
In the podcast episode, Wood described what it was like spending time with Emily in hospital in Vancouver and the lack of support available. He spent time sleeping on the street, in Stanley Park and in his vehicle because he couldn’t afford a hotel while she received treatment. Eleven days after their wedding, Emily passed away and Wood didn’t know where to turn for help with the loss.
“I lost myself into addiction, drugs, alcohol, whatever I could do, I ran away to Alberta; I left everyone behind, I burned every bridge, I lost a lot of friends through the process because I just didn’t know how to grieve. Losing a loved one like that is something that a lot of people just really won’t understand until it happens to them — it destroys a human and it took a big toll on me.”
As for some of the goals of the foundation and what it means to have Emily’s legacy live on?
You’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out.
New episodes of Off The Page drop every Wednesday.
To submit podcast topics or guest ideas, email firstname.lastname@example.org.