When I think of Renée, at first I think of cancer. Of how no one deserves to get it, suffer from it or die from it. Especially a young father with a beautiful wife and two little boys. But then I think of courage. Because that’s what describes Renée the whole time her husband, Tony, was fighting and ultimately lost his battle to cancer at 40 years old.

Renée and Tony

Renée and Tony

Renée and I met at work. I liked her right away. She’s fun, easygoing and doesn’t sweat the small stuff. She’s also a great person to have around when you’re working under pressure. We used to plan meetings for close to 300 employees. Inevitably, changes would be requested to PowerPoint presentations minutes before the meetings began. It was Renée who sat at the tech table at the back of the room making the changes. She was never bothered by the fact that 300 people were streaming in and she was working against the clock.

One dreary day in December 2004 she went to the hospital with Tony for the results of a colonoscopy triggered by, of all things, a dental x-ray. A few months earlier he’d noticed a lump on the inside of his jawbone. It turned out to be harmless, but the dentist asked if he’d ever been tested for Gardner Syndrome. The Syndrome is a form of colorectal cancer caused by a genetic mutation and the symptoms include excess bone growth in the jaw.

Renée called me at work near the end of the day. She told me Tony had cancer and was scheduled for surgery to remove his colon. It was Friday, December 3rd, 2004, their 11th wedding anniversary.

Over the next 2.5 years, Tony had three surgeries and periods of chemotherapy. Renée talked a lot about what they were going through. She’s an open book and wears her heart and emotions on her sleeve. As an introvert I admire that, but don’t quite know what to do with it. So, I was happy to listen, because I didn’t know what else I could do to help.

Renée with her eldest son, Richard.

A recent photo of Renée with her eldest son, Richard.

Through it all, Renée kept her wonderful sense of humour. She likes to laugh and she’s pretty good at making others laugh. But there were some sad moments too. One autumn day she told me Tony had taken down their above-ground pool because he didn’t want her to have trouble with it the next year. The unspoken message was that he wouldn’t be around the following summer.

Renée with youngest son, Matthieu, and Tony's mom.

Renée with youngest son, Matthieu, and Tony’s mom – Christmas 2014.

On Sunday, June 17, 2007 – Father’s Day – Renée called to tell me that Tony had passed away. With him gone, she slid into a depression for a while but came out of it stronger than ever. The proof is in her boys. They were always her priority and today they’re both successful college athletes with a proud mother in the bleachers!


Cause that’s close to her heart:

While there are many, like genetic cancers, depression and childhood poverty, I will bring this even closer to home. I looked up the word “cause” and one of the definitions is “a reason for doing or feeling something”. With that definition in mind, I have to say that the cause closest to my heart is my family, my boys most particularly. After Tony passed away, they were my only reason for being, for even getting out of bed. These days, I strive to make them proud and try to help as much as I can in order for them to become the man their father was. And I have to say … So far, so good!

Biggest Fear:

Dying alone. While it’s not an easy thing to accompany someone in their dying days, it’s a privilege and an act of love. I only wish that when my time comes, I will have found that special someone – should I be so lucky to find it twice in this lifetime – with whom I can share my last breath.

Guilty Pleasure:

Well, that’s easy! Although many people find this tacky, I enjoy my karaoke. I try to go every other week or so. I find it quite therapeutic. It’s cheaper than a therapist and you get to meet all sorts of different and interesting people. I highly recommend it.

What Makes Her Laugh:

My girlfriends and I always have a good laugh – sometimes we laugh ourselves to tears and can’t speak for minutes on end … OK, there is usually some wine involved, but only reasonable amounts. A few of my friends  have such a way of telling stories that you’d think you were sitting in a comedy club. They are fabulous. I love them to pieces…

Pet Peeve:

I have quite a few but you know what really bothers me? It’s the age of the models appearing in fashion magazines marketed for mature women. Hard enough getting older without an entire industry insinuating that we should like 16-20 year olds. It’s just not happening. So, if I’m having a bad day, I should remember not to look at these magazines but rather maybe leaf through the pages of National Geographic. LOL!

Anything else ?

A good friend and co-worker once told me we should all stop and admire the clouds every now and then. It was very good advice. I try to go for a walk on a regular basis (especially when I’m feeling blue). It helps clear the mind, keeps me moving and helps me stop (get out of my head) and appreciate the clouds and the sun (or the moon, of course). It puts everything in perspective.


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