“I was…the last one to hold her hand.”
So said Dr. Brian Delaney of his daughter Jenna, who passed away from cancer 11 years ago.
On Oct. 20, the Delaney family from Truro were honoured guests as the Jenna Delaney Diagnostic Imaging Department was formally unveiled at the Colchester East Hants Health Centre.
The hospital’s diagnostic department was renamed after Jenna Delaney’s loved ones made an undisclosed gift to the CEHHC, forming part of a $5.2 million fund needed to replace vital equipment, including the CT scanner.
Brian said that his daughter’s cancer went undetected for more than two years and faced another delay of several months, as broken equipment stopped her from getting a diagnosis before it was too late, a message echoed by Jenna’s mother Jean.
“I went to the doctor several times and they passed it off as a pulled muscle and being a mother, in my heart, I knew that there had to be something more and finally, the fifth time I took her to the doctor, he agreed to do a CT scan on her,” said Jean.
The family did not wish to disclose what type of cancer their daughter had, but said that she had it once when she was 12 and later returned when she was about 18 or 19. Jenna passed away aged 20 on June 28, 2007.
Before her death, Jenna was described as a top student, graduating from Cobequid Education Centre in 2005 with scholarships. She then attended St. Francis Xavier University for one year before her cancer returned, studying physics.
Outside the classroom, Jenna joined both the Truro Figure Skating Team and the St. Francis Xavier Dance Team. She served as CEC’s student council president from 2004 to 2005 and performed in the annual musicals, including a lead role in the performance of ‘A Chorus Line’ in Grade 12.
In addition, Jenna was an award-winning performer at the Truro Music Festival and represented her hometown in the Provincial Music Festival.
“She packed a lot into her 20 years. It was not uncommon to pick her up from one activity and she’d be changing in the back seat while we were going to the next activity, like she wanted to pack it all in,” said Brian. “You wonder sometimes if there’s something inside a person that says, ‘I may not be here for a long time, so I’d better get the best out of it.’”
He said that in Jenna’s last two years she had a boyfriend, who quit his job and returned home to stay with her after she received her cancer diagnosis.
Choking back tears, Brian said that even as Jenna spent her final days in palliative care, she made the key decisions regarding the end of her life, “taking the load off of me.”
“That’s the kind of girl she was, and we miss her very much,” said Brian.