WEST HANTS, N.S. — The zest for life that Jeanne Bourque exuded during her time on earth was infectious, and her last employer wants to memorialize it.
Bourque’s battle with cancer began in her lungs in 2015 and by the summer of 2017, she learned the disease had spread to her lymph nodes and then her bones. On Aug. 28, 2017, Bourque enacted the Medical Assistance In Dying program and took her last breath.
At the time of her death, she was remembered as a passionate person, encouraging others to live life to the fullest. She ran a personal blog where she shared her medical triumphs and setbacks and encouraged others to take up the MAID mantel. She was a positive force, inspiring others to seize the day.
In her first blog post, she wrote: “But — cancer is not going to kill me. Instead — I am going to live with cancer until I die. It’s all about perspective, eh?”
On June 10, Bourque went to work at the Municipality of West Hants for the last time. During her tenure there, she did much land use planning and researched everything from wind farms and distilleries to in-land salmon farming and climate change. The Wolfville resident also jotted down her mixed emotions over retiring in her blog.
“So, today was quite likely my last day of work, at least for awhile, and perchance forever — and I’m not quite sure how to feel. Sadness is certainly in the lead – I’ve been so very lucky to work with a great group of folks at the Municipality of West Hants over the last decade, and I am going to miss them! And my work as a land use planner has been so interesting and gratifying, I really did enjoy walking into that office most every day,” she wrote.
“Working on planning projects — from chickens to distilleries — helped me get through the last few weeks, and my workmates have provided me with much support, stability and encouragement,” she continued later in the post. “While I will miss that everyday feeling, I also know that I can give a small whimper and they will be there for me yet again! A nice feeling, that is … yes indeed, I am a lucky woman.”
As a way to pay tribute to Bourque and the lasting impact she had on the municipality, council is looking to rename one of its bursaries in her honour.
CAO Cathie Osborne said Bourque never shied away from discussing the tough subjects, which included her fight with cancer.
“Jeanne was very open about her illness and sharing her experience with the medical field and other legal areas and she exhibited quite a willingness to let her illness be used as an opportunity to make change, which was part of her nature as a planner,” said Osborne at West Hants’ committee of the whole meeting Oct. 24.
Councillors voted in favour to the tribute, and it's expected to be officially accepted at the Nov. 14 council meeting.
Once approved, the bursary would be renamed the Jeanne Bourque Carpe Diem Memorial Bursary and will be given to a graduating Avon View High School student entering a Nova Scotia Community College program who has been an active volunteer in his or her school or home community. First consideration will be given to students entering an Energy Futures program, Engineering and Applied Sciences program, or Natural Resources and Environment program.
“Those were all areas of keen interest for Jeanne,” said Osborne.
“We have spoken with her family and they felt that this would be a fitting tribute to Jeanne's life as well as her fight on behalf of other cancer victims.”
The other bursary that West Hants presents annually to an Avon View student is named in memory of former Windsor fire chief Fred Fox. He died in 2009 after a battle with mesothelioma.
To read Bourque’s journey with her cancer diagnosis and eventual decision to end her life on her own terms, visit: https://jeannemariebourque.wordpress.com/.