“It’s an overwhelming experience,” Roy Henderson says, in a weakened voice. “I’d hate for anybody else to have to go through it. I’ve pretty well settled into the thought now that I know it’s just a matter of time; it’s days, weeks now, and maybe months. Probably months, hopefully.”
Henderson is determined to put his remaining time to good use.
“I’ve met a lot of people over my life, right?
“I’d like to meet all my old friends one last time.”
He’ll get the chance. His end-of-life party is planned for the Air Force Club in Truro this Saturday afternoon.
“Instead of coming to a funeral, why not have a little party while I’m still alive? It just seems like the proper thing to do.”
Henderson, 70, went to the hospital with chest pains a month and a half ago. He wasn’t overly alarmed; he’s had heart issues before. Tests determined he was indeed experiencing a heart attack. But as it turned out, that wasn’t the worst of it.
The doctor admitted he had bad news for Henderson when he came into the room with results of a second X-ray.
“He said you’ve got cancer. I said what kind of cancer? He said pancreatic cancer that has already spread into your liver and there’s no cure. It’s terminal.”
Henderson’s next question, understandably, was to ask much time he had. The response left him stunned, as “everything you could possibly think about” went reeling through his mind.
“’Oh my God, what’s going on? What’s happening to me?’ you know,” Henderson said. “I came here because I had pains in my chest and everybody walks in the room and tells me I’m going to die in six months’ time.”
The time frame given actually ranged from mere days to a maximum of nine months. Since his diagnosis, he’s already lost 60 lbs. He’s permitted to go home during the day, which gives him time to spend with his family. But come nightfall he has to return to the hospital.
Throughout his life Henderson has worked as a cook at the former Colchester Regional Hospital and operated a discount furniture store in Hilden, among “a lot of different things.”
“I had a furniture store, I built Onslow Speedway, I built houses, I sold cars, I played around in the (maple) sugar woods, I fished for awhile … I had a very, very fulfilling life.”
Henderson also operated the former 3 Buds Burger Bus at the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition and is a long time member of both the Truro Royal Canadian Legion and the Air Force Club, the Masonic Lodge and the Truro Horsemans Club as well as being a former member of the Hilden Volunteer Fire Brigade.
He hasn’t reached the point of feeling sorry for himself; he hopes to avoid that. And despite his weakening condition, he takes solace in tending to his beloved flower garden and spending as much time as he can with his wife, Nancy, and their three adult children, Kevin, Susan and Juliene.
While he’s grateful for the opportunity to spend quality time with his family “as far as knowing it’s coming, to tell you the honest truth, I’d just as soon not know.”
His son Kevin agreed.
“It’s hard to accept,” he said. ”But we’re just trying to make the best of it while he’s still here, trying to spend as much time as we can with him.”
Looking back, Henderson said he has no real regrets. Well, perhaps one. While stock cars, stunt driving and related undertakings fulfilled daredevil passions in his younger years, there’s something he hasn’t tried.
“I always wanted to go sky diving,” he said. “Never made it. Who knows what’s in the next life, right? Might be skydiving every day, you never know.”
To the last detail
Roy Henderson’s end-of-life party is scheduled for 1-4 p.m. Saturday, July 15 at the Truro Air Force Club. The event is open to all.
There will be music and an open mic session for anyone who would like to share their talents.
Hamburgers, donated by Giant Tiger, and seafood chowder will also be available.