Bekki Rahal is a huge Pittsburgh Penguins fan and if not for the compassion and kindness of perfect strangers, her dream trip to see her team play would never have happened.
You see, Bekki has terminal brain cancer, and her husband Steve has devoted himself to helping his wife have a high quality of life, regardless of how much time she might have left.
Bekki has had nearly 600 chemotherapy treatments and 40 radiation treatments, as well as a hip replacement this past summer. Throughout her medical ordeal, she has managed to find the strength to help organize the first two Brain Tumour Walks in North Bay.
Steve says her prognosis is not something that he and Bekki discuss much. They are content to enjoy life together for an unknown, yet finite period of time.
Steve carefully planned the trip to Ottawa, where the Senators were hosting the Penguins. He had arranged for Bekki to visit the Penguins dressing room following the game through a community agency to meet the players.
As the trip got underway, the couple was excited about the adventure that lay ahead. Little did they know just how eventful the road trip would be.
Steve says 45 minutes past Mattawa, the Rahals’ car overheated. Broken down just outside Deep River, Steve realized that the car could not be fixed on the side of the highway.
Steve says he was determined to get Bekki to that game and as he ran through scenarios in his head, help came in the form of a woman he had never met before.
Susan Hazelwood, a dental hygienist from North Bay bumped into Steve, grease up to his elbows, at a nearby gas station and after talking and explaining the situation, she asked if she could help.
Hazelwood insisted that the couple load their gear into her vehicle, saying it was no trouble to drop them off at the arena in Kanata. The Rahals gratefully accepted Hazelwood’s offer.
Upon arrival, Steve was pleased that they had made it and he and Bekki had a wonderful time at the game, including meeting the players afterward.
Steve says he did not want to worry Bekki and ruin her fun, but they were essentially stranded 400 kilometres from home. He had been unable to secure a hotel room or rental car as it was the lead-up to Grey Cup week in Ottawa and several minor hockey tournaments were being held in the area.
A man and woman sitting near the Rahals had asked about the unique shirts they were wearing, adorned with messages about fighting cancer. When the Ottawa-area couple learned of the ordeal the Rahals had faced to get to the game, they offered, and then insisted, that they come to stay at their home for the night.
After a family member drove to Ottawa to pick them up after spending the night with the folks they met at the game, Steve Rahal says that he and Bekki have had time to reflect on their trip and the caring nature of people out there. He says what started as a bucket list trip for his wife ended up as meaning so much more than that to them and they are eternally grateful for the kindness shown to them.