Touching Lives: Joe MacAulayJoe MacAulay

With the odds stacked against you, keep positive and keep trying

“When you are told the odds are against you, keep positive and fight with everything you got,” says Joe MacAulay. He should know. A natural born storyteller from a long line of farmers in Eastern Kings, Joe has known hard work and long days. He was taught not to complain about what life throws at you, but rather to try to make the most of it. Born with asthma and a rare condition that gave him one lung smaller than the other, Joe has had a lifetime of health challenges.

Joe has always lived in Souris. He and his wife have raised their four children on their farm. Joe hasn’t let asthma or multiple bouts with cancer stop him. He was first diagnosed with soft tissue lymphoma in his lymph glands, and the Cobalt treatment he received left him with a pouch in his esophagus and mucus in his lungs which fills up and chokes him, unless he receives treatment quickly.

Fourteen years after he survived his first fight with cancer, Joe was diagnosed with it once again. This time it attacked his liver and his spine. After he was diagnosed he went into renal failure and was sent to Halifax.  While being treated, he suffered from collapsed lungs and due to everything he was going through he was told he wouldn’t survive the night. But to the amazement of his doctors, he beat the odds again, thanks in part due to a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy.  Afterwards, they were not able to fully re-inflate his lungs, which left fluid trapped inside.  Survival was not without its dangers.  The fluid in his lungs, the pouch in his esophagus, and hardened veins from chemotherapy treatments would combine to cause further complications.

Five years ago, Joe suffered from what doctors thought was a cold. After several months of investigating the cause, Joe was sent to Moncton.  There doctors drained his lungs by putting a tube into his lungs.  When they drained his lungs they were able to discover that due to the pouch in his esophagus food had become lodged in his lungs. Treatment was to take between 3-6 weeks, but it took over six months of local hospital visits for IV treatments and another trip to Moncton before Joe started to recover. In combination with his previous complications, Joe now has a chronic lung infection which is aggravated by emphysema.  It causes fluid to fill his lungs, which eventually builds up to a point where he can’t breathe.  He has reoccurring flare-ups every 6-9 months, which entail 3-5 weeks of local treatment each time.  Due to numerous chemo treatments, his veins have hardened which makes it difficult to have a stable injection site for his medications.  The needles need to be reinserted on average twice a week.  Without this treatment Joe quickly begins to fight for breathe.  When this happens, it is vital that he is treated quickly.

“Sometimes I have had to go in at two in the morning to receive treatment. When I am choking there is little I can do but rush to the closest hospital,” says Joe. “I need the Souris hospital. Charlottetown isn’t good for me, because it takes too long when I can’t breathe. It’s not just a matter of convenience, it’s about me surviving.”

Joe’s condition is inoperable due to the abnormality with his lungs and the stress from previous surgeries. But as long the treatments continue to work, he is happy to keep on doing the things that are important to him, beating the odds and living a normal life with his family on the farm.  He feels it is important for others not to lose hope and fight with everything they have whether it’s through their own strength and determination, or with the support of their friends, family, and community.

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