Health battles no stranger to Penticton hospital donors

Jennifer Stewart literally had to crawl on her knees in her fight against cancer.

Jennifer and Ray Stewart

Jennifer and Ray Stewart

Jennifer Stewart literally had to crawl on her knees in her fight against cancer.

Now Jennifer and husband Ray Stewart have donated $60,000 to the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation’s $20-million campaign to provide the medical equipment for the new Patient Care Tower at Penticton Regional Hospital.

The couple, who own a picturesque ranch south of White Lake, have incredible stories to tell about their lives and their individual battles with cancer.

Ray, 73, grew up in Port Arthur, Ont. (now Thunder Bay) and dropped out of school when he was 16 to work in a paper mill – earning twice as much as his friends employed at a department store.

However, he soon realized the value of a good education and went on to graduate from university with an honours bachelor of commerce degree and later a master of business administration degree from Simon Fraser University.  From humble beginnings, a successful business career would follow, including years in forestry, mining, banking and ranching.

Now retired, Ray continues to work as a business consultant. He is truly a self-made man.

“When you put pressure on (yourself), you just make life more interesting,” he remarked.

Ray wedded his high school sweetheart and they remained married for 26 years until her death in 1988.

He was later introduced by a friend to Jennifer and they have now been married for 26 years.  Ray and Jennifer built their home on 160-acre Sweet Water Ranch in 1990.

But life hasn’t been without its difficulties.

Jennifer is recovering from breast cancer and a double mastectomy earlier this year, after previous bouts with ovarian and cervical cancer, and brain surgery.

When she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer about 15 years ago, Jennifer was told by doctors she only had a short time to live. She then agreed to undergo an experimental treatment at the B.C. Cancer Centre in Vancouver, which saw her battle her way through a regimen of drug treatments, returning home on weekends.

While recovering, she struggled to get back on her feet. Ray placed a number of chairs outside between the ranch house and the barn so she could feed their livestock.  Literally crawling the 100 feet between each chair, she slowly regained her strength.

“A lot of the time Ray couldn’t be here. He was in Toronto, so I was alone,” she recalled.

After managing to sit up on each chair, she was quickly approached by their animals and talked to them while she fed them.  It turned out to be great therapy.

“It kept me going, it really did,” she said. “No one is going to tell me to stay in bed.”

Ray, meanwhile, has experienced his own battle with prostate cancer after being diagnosed five years ago. He underwent radical prostate surgery in 2011.

Now the Stewarts are looking to help out the PRH tower campaign.

Their $60,000 donation is being made in part to honour Ray’s first wife Rita, and their sons Rod and Ray, and daughter-in-law Lesley.  Rod Stewart passed away in 2001 at age 35.

“It’s a legacy of Rita and Rod’s lives. It’s a tribute, reconfirmation and acknowledgement,” Ray Sr. said. “It’s something more than a gravestone. It’s something that’s going to last forever.”

The couple have five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Ray emphasized their donation is very important to the family, noting the hospital expansion will benefit the entire South Okanagan-Similkameen.

“I just think it’s the greatest thing that could happen,” he said. “It’s what is needed now and we’re going to need more in the future.”

Construction of the Patient Care Tower at PRH is set to begin in the spring of 2016 and be completed by late 2019.

 

Just Posted

The weekly COVID-19 map for June 6 to 12. (BC CDC)
South Okanagan sees only 5 new cases in last week

The Similkameen Valley went a second week without any new cases

Sandra Krauer, Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki and Barb Hoolaeff were in Skaha Park to announce the return of Ribfest for September, 2021. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Ribfest returns to Penticton

Festival runs from Sept. 17 - 19 at Skaha Lake Park with proceeds going to new splash park

Fiery crash on the Okanagan Connector between two semis. (Facebook)
One dead after fiery Okanagan Connector crash between two semis

DriveBC estimates road won’t be open until 5 p.m.

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Turn out is high in advance voting for the Penticton by election taking place Saturday, June 19, 2021. (Screen shot)
Over 2,500 already voted in Penticton by-election

General voting day is Saturday, June 19

Bear wanders Kelowna on June 15. (Michelle Wallace/Facebook)
Bear climbs fence, uses crosswalk in Kelowna

The bear was spotted on Baron Road Wednesday evening

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the two patients, a man and a woman likely acquired the virus in the hospital

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Attorney General David Eby attend opening of the first government-run B.C. Cannabis Store, Kamloops, Oct. 19, 2018. (B.C. government)
B.C. government to allow home cannabis delivery starting July 15

Added convenience expected to persuade buyers to ‘go legal’

Festivals Kelowna president Richard Groves and executive director Renata Mills wrap themselves in the flag during the announcement of preparations for the 2018 Canada Day festival. (Alistair Waters/Capital News)
Festivals Kelowna cancels Canada Day celebrations for second year in a row

The group cited logistic issues in their announcement

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

Central Okanagan Public Schools is assisting with the distribution of a donation of $500 to every Grade 12 graduating student in the school district. (File photo)
Central Okanagan Grade 12 grads get $500 surprise

Anonymous donor gifts $500 to every Grade 12 student

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France, Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler
mRNA vaccines ‘preferred’ for all Canadians, including as 2nd dose after AstraZeneca: NACI

New recommendations prioritizes Pfizer, Moderna in almost all cases

Most Read