by Kelsey Klassen
Two Abbotsford sisters have plenty to be thankful for. In the 16 months since their mother’s near-fatal stroke, Hayley and Maureen Keyes have seen the amazing power of patience and perseverance at work.
Their mother, Ruth Harris, had been undergoing months of chemotherapy for breast cancer when her stroke occurred. Hayley, now 23, was pregnant with her son, and Maureen, 28, had just given birth to a daughter, and both girls say they were unprepared for the devastating reality of their mother’s illness.
At age 63, the sisters were told Ruth would never walk, talk or understand her surroundings again. They spent months balancing their new families and work between time in the hospital waiting for their mother to stabilize and even more time at her Surrey rehabilitation centre monitoring Ruth’s progress.
Hayley says with the help of the Heart and Stroke Foundations Stroke Recovery Program, their mother is once again living on her own. The program offers Ruth her independence after hours of rehab and speech therapy, as well as a community support worker and 20 hours a week of companion help to adjust to living alone again.
By all accounts, Ruth was an energetic woman who walked her Pomeranians twice a day, lived in the garden and always had a joke for her daughters and grandchildren. She used to cook and package meals for a homeless man and his dog in downtown Abbotsford named Bob. The first time the girls could take her out of the hospital they went to visit him to let him know she was doing well.
“To think, I was once scared my own Mother would never live to … meet her first grandson, and if the doctors could see her now, I bet they would be in shock,” said Hayley.
Ruth can no longer talk, and is largely confined to a wheelchair, but she can walk with a cane and understand everything her family says. The girls do all the grocery shopping, prescription refilling, food preparation and household chores, and home care and the community support worker assist with the rest of the daily appointments and meal prep.
Hayley runs Suburban Nail Bar and Maureen is the owner of Xtreme Talent, a dance and fine arts school, both in Abbotsford. The sisters are raising awareness and support for the organization that they say has given them their mother back.
Through Xtreme Talent, Maureen organizes regular Divas and Diamonds beauty pageants for girls under 20, and this Sunday will unveil the fundraising efforts of the Queen of Hearts themed pageant. Twenty-eight girls from B.C. and Alberta have been raising money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation in friendly competition Maureen and her students in addition to preparing for the pageant.
Hayley says the children at Xtreme Talent know Ruth very well and are returning cans and bringing in piggy bank money to support the cause.
“My sister told her fine arts students that if they raise more than the pageant contestants she will throw them a pizza party. All the children at her school have been buying Heart and Stroke pins and hearts to wear and put on the wall for a small donation,” explained Hayley.
Hayley is donating her salon services the day of the event, and says she and Maureen plan to link their businesses for more fundraisers in the future. All proceeds raised by the competing divas and Xtreme Talent and its students go directly to the foundation.
Divas and Diamonds takes place Sunday, Jan. 22 at the Pacific Inn in White Rock.
For those looking to help, donations are being accepted via the link: http://www.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=492719&lis=0&kntae492719=A7FC99F7E8594968A29180F470C8BD7E&supId=350358975
Link to the pageant:
youtube video the girls made for their mom: