Shane Robert Graham was born in the Fort St. John Hospital on February 9, 1962. His sister Shelley was born first and because nobody knew Shane existed, Shelley’s birth was announced and celebrated. An hour later, to everyone’s surprise, the nurses called in another doctor to deliver Shane. I guess you could say this was the beginning of Shane’s journey and his strength to never give up. He wasn’t able to leave the hospital for a bit, but eventually went home to join his family - Shane’s Mum and Dad (Juanita and Edsall), brothers (Tom, Loren and Mark) and his twin sister (Shelley). The Graham family lived in a small farming village in South Taylor. The first five years of Shane’s education was in a little four-room schoolhouse. There are stories of how Shelley would answer questions for Shane in the classroom and protected him in the school yard. Their relationship was very important to Shane.
During high school, Shane worked summers at the Peace Wood Products Sawmill with his Dad, and continued to work there after he graduated in 1980. Eventually Shane went back to school and obtained his 4th Class Power Engineering Certificate and in 1992 went to work in the pulp and paper industry, staying for ten years. At that point, Shane decided to enter into the oil and gas industry so he started his own consulting business called Safety First Ventures where he would provide safety services to the rigs. He found his passion for safety in the work place, protecting workers from injury and doing what he could to make sure they went home to their families. Shane became certified as a National Construction Safety Officer and obtained a Certified Health and Safety Diploma from the Canadian Society of Safety Engineers to support his professional passion. Shane worked away from home in order to build his business and reputation and then he took a job with Wabi Construction running their safety program. His efforts in the area of workplace safety were recognized for the over 1,000,000 man-hours without a single lost-time accident. Shane was offered a corporate health and safety manager position in Ontario, but turned it down as he did not want to move away from his family and home in Fort St. John. Instead, in 2005 Shane took a job with West Coast Energy as a safety specialist.
Shane’s family meant the world to him. He would tell you that, “In April 1994, he met Joyce Lillico - a lady that changed his life completely. She was the best thing that happened to him. She was his rock and his soul mate. They were married on June 10, 1995 and they vowed to be together for eternity”. They spent the next two years travelling all over the Caribbean Islands.”
On July 1st, 1999 Joyce gave birth to their children Hannah Claire and Spencer Ryan. They were born eight weeks early so had to stay in NICU for the first 2 months of their life. Shane and Joyce stayed with Uncle Bob and Aunt Judy and spent all their time at the hospital with Hannah and Spencer on the roller coaster that came with being new parents to preemies. They were finally discharged home and were able to start the next chapter of life as a family of four.
Hannah and Spencer’s education was important to both Shane and Joyce. Shane was able to help with their math, and even if he could not help with other homework, he always reminded the kids to start from the beginning and work through it; to never give up. Shane and Joyce enjoyed being involved in their education and extracurricular activities. Shane spent time coaching tee ball, soccer, softball and hockey. He saw the potential in all the kids and encouraged them to believe in themselves and have fun. He also enjoyed spending time in the bleachers at the swimming pool cheering on the kids, and spent time in auditoriums listening to Hannah’s music. Shane would sit with the kids when they were struggling and talk them through the situation. His advice was always to stay positive and never give up.
In March of 2011, Shane, and the hockey team he was coaching, were having a season end party where they had parents versus kid’s game. Unknowingly, Shane received a small skate cut on his ankle. We found out later that it was that cut was what signalled Shane’s body that leukemia was present. If it weren’t for the infection through that cut, Shane would have run out of time. Shane started experiencing symptoms of leukemia taking over and he was air lifted to Vancouver General Hospital.
On April the 11th, 2011, Shane was told that he was in the late stages of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. He was in a fight for his life and was told to get his affairs in order. He went through eight months of chemotherapy, total body irradiation, and a bone marrow transplant with the hope of putting the leukemia into remission. Thankfully, Shane’s brother Mark was a perfect stem cell match for the transplant and he was able to donate his bone marrow. The transplant was successful and Shane was went into remission.
Shane had signed up to be a part of the research group to help with trial treatment programs back in 2011 hoping that if his treatment was unsuccessful they could learn something to help other patients with their battles.
About a year later, Shane was told by his oncologist to get his affairs in order again. The leukemia had returned in the unusual form of a tumor on the belly. Joyce and the kids packed up their stuff and off to Vancouver they went again for immediate treatment. Shane was given radiation as treatment and follow-up tests showed that the leukemia was gone.
Before Shane and Joyce returned home, he felt he had to do something to help other bone marrow transplant patient’s deal with the challenges of blood cancer. Shane started making Hickman line necklaces for the patients with words of encouragement such as Faith – Hope, Strength – Courage, Family – Friends and Hope – Love. Each necklace was unique as the strings, beads and words were different for each one. By 2018 he had made over 3,000 necklaces. During Shane’s regular quarterly appointments in Vancouver, he would bring a new supply of Hickman line necklaces and even stop in to see a patient who was struggling with the diagnosis and give them a necklace with the words that would help them.
One day Shane was getting on the elevator to go up the BMT floor when he saw a woman holding a necklace that the string had broken on. Shane asked her who the necklace belonged to and she said it was her husband’s. The couple were both very sad as she said he loved the necklace. Shane offered to help her and showed her the new necklaces that he was delivering to see if she wanted a new one. She wanted to keep the broken necklace because it was what her husband turned to for strength, so Shane went with the wife up to her husband’s room, replaced the broken string on the original necklace, then sat, and talked with the couple for a while.
Shane spent many hours sitting and talking to patients on the ward who were entering the battle for their life. He became an inspiration to them. While being an outpatient and getting treatment at VGH, Joyce noticed a young man wearing one of the Hickman Line necklaces that Shane made. Shane asked him about the necklace. The young man said he loved it and said it helped him deal with the cancer. He said they were made by some guy from up north. Shane asked him if he would like to meet that man. The young man said that it would be hard to do as he lived up north and probably doesn’t come here very often. Shane told him that he was the person who made the necklaces. The young man replied, “you are a celebrity here”. This young man did not have any support in Vancouver and was really struggling. Shane talked to him and told him straight out that we have two choices when faced with bad news – we can accept defeat and be miserable or we can be positive and trust that we will survive. Shane often said that he would never give up hope until he was told there was no hope left; and at that time we would go through that stage with as much strength as we had.
In December 2018, Shane’s oncologist informed him that his cancer had once again come out of remission and that he would have to return to VGH immediately to start treatment. Shane’s oncologist and team did not have a plan for treatment and gave them very little hope for survival. The previous treatment that Shane received was not an option this time and Shane would need to be part of a clinical chemotherapy trial. This involved a lot of unknowns and applications. After 4 months of chemotherapy and treatments, the doctors were successful in achieving remission once again. His oncologist often said that Shane was an unusual patient as he beat the odds when they were low and had things happen unexpectedly. Shane’s medical journey has been discussed country wide and even into the United States. Shane was on the list to receive a new-to-Canada treatment if he could survive the last cancer.
Shane always said that he needed to be positive, prepared and hopeful.
Shane was positive, hopeful and prepared as he left some thoughts:
He wrote -
There is a famous saying by Mark Twain: “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”
The day I was born: February 9, 1962
The Day I Found Out Why: I met Joyce – My wife, best friend and soul mate. You have been at my side all the way and endured a lot of pain and suffering over the past 10 years with me. You have provided me with the strength and courage to continue this fight. Without you, the battle would have been over years ago. I will always love you as we said in our marriage vows, for “eternity”.
Hannah and Spencer – one of the best days of my life was the day you two were born. You mean everything to me and are the light of my life and you both were there for me every step of the way. Your journey into adulthood has impressed me and I am so proud of both of you. I will be there in spirit to guide you going forward.
Mark Graham – for giving me the gift of life on July 28, 2011, thank you!
Shelley– My rock, best friend and shoulder to lean on. For all of the amazing support and help you provided through my life, thank you!
Mom & Dad – For bringing me into this world.
Loren, Tom – For you being there whenever I fell down and needed a hand to get back up.
Jane, Al, Lauren and Reg and Lori and all of our friends:
-your support means the world to me and my family
Dr. Nantel and Dr. Spacey, Dr. Moody, Dr. Boudreau, Dr. Rollo –the reason I made it past April 2011
To my poker pals – Jeff, Badger, Ed, Warren, Gary, Jim, Justin and Jordan - Thanks for all the memories. Keep the games going!
Interests and passions:
Sports player card trading
For those wishing to do so, expressions of sympathy may be made in memory of Shane to
~the Prince George Hospice Society, 1506 Ferry Ave, Prince George, BC V2L 5H2
~or the Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Cancer Society, National Office 55 St Clair Avenue West, Suite 500 Toronto, Ontario M4V 2Y7