The goal of raising $22,250 toward Bridgewater hospital's first palliative care "cuddle bed" took eight days to achieve, not months as Katherine "Taff" Cheeseman thought it would when she and the hospital's charity teamed-up on the campaign in memory of her late husband, Rick.
"Honestly, I'm speechless," Cheeseman said in an email, telling LighthouseNOW the five-figure goal was reached December 9 after launching December 2.
"I would like to take this project province-wide, and, at the same time, I still will receive fundraising for South Shore Regional Hospital, which will be used for more items they require - things Rick would have approved of."
The charity, Health Services Foundation of the South Shore, indicated in an online post Cheeseman planned to continue fundraising for another healthcare project. In a telephone interview with LighthouseNOW, Cheeseman said she wants to see cuddle beds made available at all Nova Scotia hospitals and beyond.
"It's not just for the patient, it's for the family too," she told LighthouseNOW. "It's not always possible to bring a family member home."
Taff and Rick Cheeseman were high school sweethearts in their home province of Newfoundland and Labrador. They married in 1995, and moved to Nova Scotia in 1999, as Taff's military career took her to Pine Grove. Meanwhile, Cheeseman was an advanced care paramedic, starting his career in 1993, and spending the last 14 years with Nova Scotia's ambulance service.
The couple had three children, Michelle, James, and Stephen. Two are now in their 20s, the other a teen.
Life was normal, Cheeseman said. They lived in their dream house in Branch LaHave. They were a close lot, living the creed that family is everything. Family vacations were the norm; one of the last before Rick's diagnosis was to Walt Disney World in FL.
Rick hadn't been feeling well for a while, Cheeseman said. He was in pain and had lost weight.
A colonoscopy revealed a significant problem and led to Rick's diagnosis of advanced rectal cancer in March 2017.
He tried to continue working while undergoing treatment, but that didn't last long, Cheeseman said.
Rick endured a gruelling 10 rounds of radiation and 41 taxing rounds of chemotherapy.
"Every single day I don't think I ever heard him complain," Cheeseman said. "He would be mad; he would be mad because the medication made his hands shake." He worried he couldn't return to work because the shaking would prevent him from inserting an IV, she said.
He fought hard, but the aggressive cancer penetrated his liver and lungs. Once evident Rick wasn't getting out of the hospital, Cheeseman's focus was to hold her husband close, cuddle in bed, and share that intimate moment.
Without the benefit of a palliative bed allowing two people to lay side-by-side, staff dug a bariatric bed out of storage. Rick was transferred to the bed, and once he was comfortable, Cheeseman crawled in.
"I vowed then and there the hospital would have a cuddle bed," she told LighthouseNOW.
An image of the pair laying down together in the bed for the first time this summer was captured by a continuing care assistant, with permission from the family.
The picture accompanied the first plea for funds in the "Cuddles from Rick" campaign.
James Richard "Rick" Cheeseman died August 25. He was just 48-years-old.
Donations in his memory can be made to the South Shore Regional Hospital's Journey Room, or to "Cuddles From Rick".
To learn more about the campaign or to contribute, check out www.healthservicesfoundation.ca/donate-now on the internet.
The "Cuddles from Rick" social media page can be found at www.facebook.com/groups/366749814525183 on the internet.