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The Mission: Accomplished?
Diagnosed with ALS, three teenagers, substantial debt, working a contract two plane rides from home, marital challenges: What is your next move? My next move was primarily practical with some view to family, friends and living.
Last family photo (June 2015)- Shannon and Nolan’s birthday
The physical/animal mission: Get a job close to home. Get a job with benefits. Pay off the mortgage. Put away enough money to pay for university/college and for the family to live on after you are gone. The family/social/spiritual mission: Become connected. The living/intellectual mission: Identify any and all possible means to extend life. Live to accomplish the practical and family missions.
April 2012. I was lucky, fortunate even in misfortune. From time to time over the course of several years I had heard from a company looking to expand and hire. Not the type of person to jump from job to job working for my first employer six and one half years, second employer eight and one half years and the third employer fourteen years, it was time to answer the call. Given that there is no conclusive ALS diagnosis you can never firmly say especially in the early stages that you have ALS. Outside of my medical staff, at this point only two people knew of my condition. Two way interviews, offers, counter offers and then I got the job. It was a great job, working with great people with an industry competitive company. Not only did the job pay well but it had benefits and as part of my employment arrangements the waiting period was waived. The challenge was that I could not really qualify for long-term disability insurance except without medical evidence of insurability meaning the waiting period for long-term disability would be twelve months and the compensation would be reduced. So, job close to home, tick; job with benefits, tick-as long as I live and work at least another twelve months.
June 2015. The practical/animal mission is more or less accomplished. The mortgage is paid off. There is money in the bank. Between my group and personal life insurance there is money enough to pay for university/college and for my wife to live, albeit frugally for quite some time. Not easily accomplished and not accomplished without loss. We had the misfortune of my wife’s father passing leaving some inheritance. We moved from a good-sized two-story to a small bungalow to which we added a bedroom/bathroom extension in support of my accessibility needs. Confined to a wheelchair, breathing with the support of a sip and puff respirator (http://www.upstate.edu/pated/document/trilogy_ventilator_dec_2015.pdf), unable to lift my arms to eat I stopped working at the end of 2014. Thanks to the generous nature of my employer I received the annual bonus and was able to exercise my options. I qualified for disability employment insurance and for long-term disability and Canadian pension plan disability.
August 2015. Tragedy struck our family. My wife Vicki, mother of three young adults passed after a heroic eighteen month struggle with ovarian cancer: So much for the practical/animal mission. Vicki O’Shaughnessy (nee Gibbons) was a force, an artist, hockey player, party organizer extraordinaire, morally strong, fiercely competitive homemaker. She is sorely missed by so many.
The family mission remains.
Vicki O’Shaughnessy, September 12, 1958-August 2, 2015