The profound tragedy of losing a loved one has engulfed a Sooke family in heartbreaking grief twice within two weeks.
Bonnie Owsianyk’s husband, Robert Owsianyk, died on Sept. 7 from brain cancer. He had battled the disease for years, but earlier this year, doctors discovered it had spread to another area of his brain.
His death followed far too soon after Owsianyk’s daughter, Madison Fotheringham, 21, died after a courageous fight of her own from liver cancer on Aug. 24.
“It’s such a hard time wrapping your head around losing Rob and Madison so close together,” said Owsianyk, known to many in the community through her work as a waitress at Cathy’s Corner Cafe. “It’s been an extremely difficult time.”
She said her son, Andy, 15, and daughter, Emma, nine, are also having a very hard time.
“We couldn’t tell Rob that we lost Madison because the doctors at the hospital said it would have been too much for him because of his condition,” Owsianyk said. “We were together for 20 years, and that’s the only time I kept something from him.”
Sadly, the couple would have celebrated their 16th wedding anniversary on Sept. 9.
Fotheringham was admitted to Royal Jubilee Hospital in August with abdominal pains, which the family believed was related to her lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis. Doctors determined that her abdominal pains were caused by advanced liver cancer, which had already spread to her lungs by the time it was diagnosed.
”I think that people would be surprised to learn how painful cystic fibrosis is,” Owsianyk said. “It’s a congenital disease known for damaging the lungs, but it affects all organs. Since she was a baby, Madison was constantly in and out of the hospital doing tests and getting stuck with needles.”
At one point, doctors had to surgically implant a port catheter into her neck when they had trouble putting a line into her arm.
“There was so much scarring in her veins from the countless times they put catheter lines into her arms,” Owsianyk recalled. “She put up with all of that and wanted to live a long life.”
“Madi was always taking care of other people ahead of herself, so nobody was surprised when she started a GoFundMe page for her dad, but everyone was surprised when we were suddenly discussing if we were going to start one for her.”
Fotheringham had initially approached Kelvin Wong, a software developer, for help when she started the GoFundMe page for her father.
“I promised Madison I would help, and so it’s fallen on me since she passed away,” said Wong, a family friend. “Bonnie’s a waitress. The family’s not wealthy, so they can certainly use all the help they can get.”
Owsianyk is already overwhelmed by the acts of kindness pouring in from the community.
“It’s been amazing,” she said. “Sooke Lions helped get my electric scooter back on the road so I can get to work, and Cathy’s been amazing giving me time off.”
If you want to help the Owsianyk family, please go online to GoFundMe.