For Terry Thorne, receiving a cancer diagnosis amid the pandemic showed just how shockingly fast a life can be changed.
In spring 2020, things were going great for Terry — spending time with his loving and happy granddaughters, a new grandchild on the way, a loving marriage of 40-plus years, golfing with friends. For a pandemic, life was feeling pretty sweet.
Things changed in June when Terry started to feel unwell; his appetite was gone and he knew something was off. At first, he was scared it could be COVID-19 and started to think about the loved ones he’d been in contact with recently. He booked a test that came back negative. He was relieved.
By Canada Day, Terry still wasn’t feeling like himself. He and his wife decided this strange flu was going on a little too long, so they took a trip to the QEII’s Charles V. Keating Emergency and Trauma Centre.
Things moved quickly from there. Terry was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), an aggressive form of cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Terry was admitted into the QEII’s Hematology, Medical Oncology and Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit, 8A and 8BMT, where he started treatment.
Grateful for his care team and the experts who supported him through his cancer journey, Terry was compelled to give back in a meaningful way. He said he wanted to make an impact in a space that impacted him so profoundly.
Terry always lived his life by the old fable of the starfish and the little boy walking the beach. As the story goes, a little boy walks along a beach with millions of starfish washed up around him. He picks up a single starfish and throws it back in the water.
A man comes along and tells the boy there are millions of starfish washed up and he won’t be able to make a difference. The little boy picks up another starfish, throws it in the water and says, “I made a difference for that one.”
On March 22, 2021, after battling his cancer for more than 10 months, Terry passed away at age 66. Terry is survived by his wife, Linda Thorne, their children and grandchildren. With him every step of the way through this journey, Linda has continued to honour Terry’s fundraising efforts.
“Terry was always the type of person to create change and be a leader,” says Linda. “It was natural for him to take charge of a project. Terry had an ability to connect with people and really inspire them.”
Due to gathering restrictions with COVID-19, Terry opted to create a virtual fundraising page through the QEII Foundation’s do-it-yourself (DIY) online fundraising platform. He shared his story and the generosity of his community has been extraordinary.
“The fundraiser was something we talked about every day. It was something positive that he could keep track of and focus on. We would get so excited when we got an email with a virtual high-five for a new donation,” says Linda.
Terry explained in an interview before his passing that when you enter this type of treatment protocol, you leave behind everything familiar to you. In a patient’s vulnerable state, there is a heightened sense of the world-class expertise, compassion, kindness and generosity of those who are caring for you.
Through his treatment, Terry saw his doctors, nurses, nursing assistants and support staff all work as a team. He saw a real sense of family within his unit. From Terry’s initial chemo treatment on July 3, bone marrow transplant with his brother Bill as the donor, up until March 5, Terry had spent more than 70 days in the hospital.
Terry also felt lucky to have his wife able to visit throughout the pandemic; he felt that having one support person made a big difference.
“I was blown away by the incredible care at the QEII. The level of personal connection that the staff have with patients and their families is something special. I felt like they genuinely cared about how we were coping, how we were dealing with all of this,” shares Linda.
“We felt supported as we left the hospital after Terry’s bone marrow transplant. It was his journey, but I was on it with him and it was comforting to know that he was getting the best care.”
Terry and Linda’s shared goal is for the money raised to improve capacity for care teams at the QEII, so they can do their job in the most effective manner possible. The fundraiser has already raised more than more than $37,000 and that number continues to climb, with Linda carrying the fundraiser forward in Terry’s honour.
Terry shared that his journey took him to a very spiritual place and he spent a lot of time focusing on making the most of his time here, “healing any cracks,” he said. Terry felt that he lived a very blessed life and decided very early on that he was going to focus on being happy and optimistic through whatever life threw his way. A promise he kept to his dying day.
Terry’s legacy lives on and will have a tangible impact for others battling cancer here at home in Atlantic Canada. Part of Terry’s legacy will be the number of lives he will touch through his fundraising efforts.
Terry’s friends are coming together as Team Jellybean — his youthful nickname — to raise funds for cancer care by participating in this year’s Ride for Cancer powered by BMO Bank of Montreal. To help carry on Terry’s legacy, you can support Team Jellybean at fundraise.yourrideforcancer.ca/fundraisers/jellybean.