The wheels of justice may turn slowly, but community support has been swift for a local woman facing financial difficulties because of cancer.
Bev MacGregor didn't know where to turn last month.
Her only source of income-employment insurance-was due to run out just as she was scheduled to start her first round of chemotherapy for breast cancer.
And she found out that-unless she was willing to lose her small townhouse, car and the few dollars she had saved in an RRSP after raising two kids on her own-she wouldn't qualify for any other government support while she was off work battling her disease
But since MacGregor's story was published in the Nov. 13 Times, friends, family and total strangers have rallied around the local mother and grandmother and raised about $6,400 to get her through the next few difficult months.
"I'm so overwhelmed by the grace and kindness of others," MacGregor told the Times. "I knew it was out there, but I'm totally blown away."
Friends and family raised nearly $5,000 two weekends ago at a pub fundraiser and a Grey Cup party organized by Cathy Dunn, a friend of MacGregor's since the women were both about 10 years old.
"When you see someone that you love that much going through something like this, you think, 'I wish there was some-thing I could do,'" Dunn told the Times, "You can't do anything to make the cancer go away, so this is something that all of her friends can do to at least help some of her financial stress go away so that she can concentrate on getting better."
But it hasn't only been friends and family getting on board.
Total strangers from as far away as Vancouver Island have sent her encouraging notes and small sums of money that now total about $400.
The Times has also fielded numerous calls from people looking to donate, including a group of local women who meet twice a week for a Zumba exercise class.
"I saw this lady's name in the paper, and I mentioned it to the ladies here," said Beverly Mills, one of the women. "We've just got a couple hundred bucks, but we thought we'd give her something just as a token to let her know that the community wants to support her."
Even MacGregor's last employer pitched in $1,000, despite her only having worked for the company a short time before cutbacks led to her layoff.
"I just bawled my eyes out," Mac-Gregor said. "I was just so humbled and so grateful."
MacGregor's financial struggles are all too common, according to a November report by the Canadian Cancer Action Network.
Loss of work and an increase in uninsured cancer-treatment-related expenses financially blindside many Canadians battling cancer, especially those who, like MacGregor, don't have extended health benefits through work, the study found.
CCAN is calling for improved government supports for people diagnosed with cancer, but Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP Mark Strahl told the Times last month a massive expansion of federal EI and Canada Pension Plan disability benefits would be fiscally irresponsible in the current economic climate.
In February, he helped defeat a private member's bill aimed at extending EI sickness benefits from 15 to 50 weeks to give people like Mac-Gregor time to get through treatment.
Strahl did meet with MacGregor, however, and recommended she apply for CPP disability benefits despite her having been told twice before that her breast cancer would not qualify her.
Upon MacGregor's request, the MP also wrote a letter to expedite her CPP application.
"Ms. MacGregor will find herself in a financial hardship situation in the very
near future as she cannot work and her employment insurance sickness benefits are set to expire," the letter reads. "She also does not qualify for provincial social assistance benefits. I am hopeful that you can move quickly to evaluate her application as a result."
Having reached the end of her EI benefits on Nov. 17 and with her first round of chemotherapy already behind her, MacGregor is still waiting to see if her application will be approved.
Money from friends, family and strangers will keep her afloat for the next few difficult months, but she knows not everyone is so lucky.
She said nurses at the Abbotsford cancer clinic, where she goes for chemotherapy, know that too.
"They came and thanked me for telling my story because every day they see, in that chair, people in my position, and they have nowhere to go," MacGregor said.
Her goal, once she has recovered, is to work for change, but for now she's urging people to contact their local MPs and MLAs to demand better supports for people battling cancer.
"The voice is what's going to get these things changed," she said.