One of my fondest memories of VOBOC was one of its earliest.

Shortly after being married in 2000, my husband Andrew was suddenly diagnosed with Lymphoma. He was only 31 years old and I was 27. We’d just moved into our own apartment and celebrated our very first Christmas.Now as a married couple, we were simply looking forward to a long life together when our world came to a sudden stand still.

The next few months were spent in the hospital weeks at a time. I guess this was to be our new home. A single bed, a cot in the corner of the room, countless visits from nurses and doctors at all hours.

There, we’d watch the seasons pass from his window as he wondered if he’d live to see the next one. Friends would visit and we’d be reminded of how life outside the hospital continued at a fast pace while ours stood still. Frankly, we were just holding our breath.

I remember one evening Andrew telling me about a woman he’d met earlier that day. She was a volunteer. It wasn’t long before I, too, met Doreen Edward AKA the “craft lady”. She was just as he described. Full of life, energy, humour and quiet understanding. Her own personal battle gave us hope and her visits always left us in better spirits.

Over the months to come she would become our personal cheering squad and, mostly, a very dear friend.

On one of the few times Andrew was not in the hospital,we went back to his parent’s home for the weekend. There weren’t any interruptions from doctors or nurses. Not a single person rushing in to take blood in the middle of the night. And no injections! Peace at last.

Soon after getting home, I remember standing in the front yard and getting a phone call. It was Doreen. She explained that we’d won a weekend get-away at a nearby cottage! She had it all arranged – food prepared, transportation by boat… We didn’t have to think about a thing. All we had to do was say yes! We wouldn’t have had the energy otherwise. Somehow, she knew exactly what we needed.

Cottage country had always played an important part in our lives. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect place for us to spend a quiet night. We sat on the sofa looking out at the stars through the large window. As a bonus, we watched the reflection of the moon on the water.

We talked for hours about what kind of cottage we’d have together someday. It was the first time in months we had an evening all to ourselves. It was the first time we didn’t have to focus on “tumor talk” or “dark thoughts”. For a small window in time we could actually see beyond the cancer. We could even envision living a life radically different from the one we were living – far away from what we feared the most.

This is what VOBOC, its many volunteers and supporters do best. They take lives that are being turned upside down by cancer and for moments at a time, they remind you that there is so much more to you, so much more to life than cancer. Those moments give you strength. They give your family and friends strength, too. It is for those moments I will forever be grateful.

Thank you Doreen and the VOBOC Team,

Andrea Labrosse Schell