WINDSOR, N.S. — Joey Archibald was opinionated and passionate; he could light up a room and had a wicked sense of humour.
He was friendly and outgoing, and until his last breath, was a fighter.
Archibald, who grew up in St. Croix, died in Halifax Aug. 8 just days after receiving a cancer diagnosis.
Now, the community is rallying around a fundraiser that is aimed at helping his family cope with his sudden passing.
“He was full of spirit, full of opinion,” said Liza Nelson, Archibald’s sister, with a warble in her voice.
The family is still reeling from the loss.
“Definitely a fighter. He didn’t get to fight — with treatment — the cancer, but he was Joey until the end. It didn’t take his spirit away.”
Archibald, who graduated from Hants West Rural High School in 1995, began feeling under the weather around Father’s Day.
“He was just feeling a little bit unwell, low-grade fever, tired. Not anything that the rest of us haven’t had,” said Nelson.
After toughing it out for a few weeks, he went to see the doctor, who, after receiving the blood work results, sent him to the Queen Elizabeth II hospital. He was admitted on July 12.
“For the next two weeks, we were kind of confused as to what was going on. He didn’t feel well. They said he had an infected abscess on his liver,” said Nelson.
On July 20, Archibald made a public Facebook post about the importance of seeing a doctor when you’re not feeling well. He called it a cautionary tale.
“Our bodies are amazing, they know what’s up, and ignoring it can be deadly. If my astute doctor hadn’t sent me when she did, or if I had waited even a few more days, I may never have been posting again. My recovery will be long, but it’s better than the alternative. These have been the scariest, most painful days of my life. It shouldn’t have gotten here,” he wrote.
“Please take one thing from this post, if you don’t feel well, seek help. Don’t try and tough it out or think waiting is an option,” he continued.
“When I close my eyes at night, or whenever I get a chance to sleep, I am always struck for a few moments about how quickly everything can change dramatically. Love yourself enough to be smarter than me and don’t put off asking for help. Men, I know society tells us to be tough, but what’s more important is being smart and alive. Stay healthy and love yourself.”
At the time of the posting, he had spent eight days in hospital and underwent one surgery. Then the doctors discovered he had a large tumor on his liver, Nelson said.
“I know the weekend before he died, he had been home. On Sunday (Aug. 5), he was feeling unwell again so he was taken back to the hospital. On Monday (Aug. 6), they did more CT scans and said it had spread to his adrenal glands and his lungs,” said Nelson.
“I’ve been told the doctors said to him ‘the odds are stacked against you’ and he said, ‘I’m going to fight it,’ so they admitted him to the oncology ward at the VG to get started with treatments,” said Nelson.
On Aug. 8, Archibald took his last breath at 41-years-old.
“We knew he had a lot of cancer but we thought we had a fight,” said Nelson, struggling to maintain composure.
“It was early Wednesday morning I had a Facebook message from him that just said: ‘I’m here on the floor where I need to be to deal with this now.’ And then by the time I saw him again, he was non-responsive. He was ready to fight right until the end,” said Nelson.
Archibald’s older brother, Jeff Archibald, is currently living in England and awaiting his visa renewal. Due to how fast his brother’s cancer spread, he couldn’t be by his bedside.
Wanting to help, he set up a fundraiser for the family Joey Archibald leaves behind — his wife, Carrie, and their eight-year-old daughter Marley.
“I just don’t want them to have to worry about anything, other than (coping with) losing their husband and their dad,” Jeff Archibald said in a phone interview.
A Go Fund Me campaign was launched to help Carrie, a self-employed hairstylist in Halifax, grieve, cope with becoming a single mother, and still pay all the bills.
Joe and Carrie were married July 16, 2011. They recently bought a new house in Halifax and were looking forward to taking a family vacation when he fell ill.
“Carrie is still quite in shock. He was quite healthy up until the first of July. Nobody had any idea that he had anything,” said Jeff Archibald.
An initial goal of $3,000 was set. The Go Fund Me campaign has far exceeded their hopes. As of this writing, the fundraiser was sitting at $14,500. Jeff Archibald said he’s planning to keep the fundraiser open for a few more weeks as people are still learning of Joey’s death.
“I didn’t have any wild expectations — just something to help Carrie out; anything would be good,” he said.
The outpouring of support has been touching to the entire family.
Jeff Archibald said he’s hoping to return to Nova Scotia sometime this year and will take part in a celebration of life service for his brother.
“It was stunningly aggressive cancer,” he said.
“I was upset about the cancer but then Mom had me on video chat in the hospital room and showed me Joe on the video screen and that was it. I lost it a little bit,” he said.
“I don’t think I’ve even accepted it yet... I know it’s happened — but it hasn’t really sunk in.”
To learn more about the Go Fund Me campaign or to donate, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/4nz8mf-support-for-joey039s-family.