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Comox Valley activist remaining upbeat in spite of diagnosis
When some would be sad and depressed, Gwyn Frayne is still smiling and inspiring others.
The 79-year-old well-known and much-loved Comox Valley activist has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Frayne was told this devastating news in mid-December, and was given six to 18 months to live at that time.
But, even when talking about the fact that she’s dying, Frayne keeps a positive, upbeat attitude, without a hint of sadness or regret.
In fact, Frayne says she’s fine with the idea of dying, as she points out that dying is part of living.
“I’ve always thought, and experienced, that death was part of life; it is not a separate thing and it doesn’t need to be hushed up,” says Frayne. “Cancer used to be talked of in whispers, and even a lot of people who’ve never known someone who died are afraid of death. I think it is part of life and so that’s how I’m dealing with it.
“At Christmas I had my two youngest grandkids visiting and they were able to hear this normalizing of death and there wasn’t any crying or anything; it was very good. I was very happy.”
Frayne is known for her work advocating for various social and environmental issues affecting Canadians through a number of groups and organizations. Support Our Seniors and the Council of Canadians are two groups which have been close to her heart over the years.
Before moving to the Comox Valley, Frayne was a medical social worker and spent time working in the U.S., Ontario and Montreal. She also spent time teaching social work during her career.
She moved to Courtenay in 1991 for an early retirement, but before she had unpacked her bags, she ended up with the job of co-ordinator at the Crossroads Crisis Centre. There, she co-ordinated 75 volunteers, trained new volunteers and supervised the centre for nine years.
Frayne raised four children and she has 10 grandkids and two great-grandkids. Since her diagnosis, she has been working to get supports in place for her 90-year-old husband, as she is his primary caregiver.
Frayne says she’s lucky to have a strong support system of friends and family, noting she’s been busy visiting with people wishing to say goodbye. Recently, she attended a ‘Last Lunch’ the Comox Valley Peaceful Direct Action Coalition and Council of Canadians held in her honour.
“I do want people to know that I have thoroughly enjoyed living here. I have met so many wonderful people,” says Frayne, who is confident others will continue fighting for the things she believes in, like protecting the environment, health care for everyone and ensuring seniors have access to services they need for a good quality of life.
“I’m very happy to be dying knowing that there are other people that are going to carry on all my good causes.”
Frayne received the Caring Canadian Award from the Governor General in 2012 for her contribution to the Comox Valley community.