The heroism behind the closed doors

News 4 February, 2018
  • Photo Chantal Poirier
    Janine Gagnon-Corbeil lives in an elegant house in Outremont bought with her husband Yvan Corbeil.

    David Riendeau

    Sunday, 4 February, 2018 00:00

    Sunday, 4 February, 2018 00:00

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    Janine Gagnon-Corbeil has been a heroine of the shadow. From 1985 to 1992, she dedicated herself body and soul to the well-being of her husband Yvan Corbeil, struck with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Together, they have experienced all the stages of this degenerative disease until the inevitable end. More than 25 years after the events, she realizes how much this experience has transformed her life.

    “To be alongside a loved one suffering from a disease such as ALS, it is grieving before and after death “, illustrates Janine Gagnon-Corbeil.

    The lady of 84 years of age, receives us in her home, in an elegant house in Outremont that she had purchased with Yvan Corbeil, her husband. At the time, the couple enjoyed a full life both on the family level and a professional level. He was the founding president of the house of surveys CROP, while it has led a successful career as a psychologist.

    Their world collapsed like a house of cards in march 1985. Yvan came back to see a neurologist after another fall. The verdict is without appeal. “He told me : I have a patient who is called ALS. I’m going to die young. “He was then 49 years of age.

    More known under the name of Lou Gehrig’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) causes a paralysis scalable. Death usually occurs five years after diagnosis, and no cure exists to date.

    A heavy responsibility

    “All that it is taken for granted fell to pieces,” she recalls. The news has upset the family, starting with their children Martin, 23 years, Julie, 21 years old, and Jerome, 14.

    Overnight, a gesture as simple as tying his shoes became impossible to Yvan Corbeil. A year and a half only after the diagnosis, he was struggling to walk alone. The founder of CROP is resigned to sell his business.

    Janine has assumed most of the care of her husband for as long as possible. “ALS is changing very fast. The solution that I found to a problem that became useless a few days later. “She soon felt overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task.

    At the time, Janine shared his day between the office and the house, where there was starting the ” real work “. Each time the paralysis prevented Yvan Corbeil to perform a gesture, Janine had to do it for him. His body could no longer look ? It dressed. His legs no longer responded ? She raised it from the bed to the wheelchair, then the wheelchair to the car. His arms had stopped moving ? She brushed her teeth, did eat and made him its toilet.


    “I would have asked for help more quickly, songe-t-it with the benefit of hindsight. You told me to hire an attendant for the night, but I thought it was absurd. Yet, I had to get to the obvious that it was necessary. The disease moved fast and was always a step ahead of us. “

    The nights were particularly harsh. Yvan felt everything, but nothing more could be done. A blanket that is too heavy or an awkward posture to him became unbearable. “I woke up constantly to lend him assistance. For two years, I am not arrived to a full night’s sleep. He was a prisoner of his body, and me, I was captive of his fate. “

    This event was a severe blow to their relationship. The loss of autonomy generated with Yvan Corbeil, a lot of frustration and often, he poured out his bad mood on his wife, yet so devoted.

    Despite the distress and exhaustion, Janine has maintained his professional activities. “My office had become my refuge. The work gave me a certain influence on my life, so that I was helpless at home. “In addition, she has been in therapy with a psychologist before and after the death of her husband.

    Four years after his diagnosis, Yvan Corbeil has lost the use of his arms and his hands. His condition applicant now constant attention, Janine has had to place her husband in NURSING in the spring of 1990. She has hired servants who could relay. “It was a choice hard to make, but continue to take care of him was beyond my capabilities. “

    In march 1992, the muscles of his chest had ceased to function. He died surrounded by his family at the age of 56 years. “At the very end, we console by saying that they will no longer suffer, but at the same time, we feel a great emptiness. “

    To start at zero

    After seeing her husband die slowly, Janine was left alone at the age of 59. She keeps a sad memory of the first few months without him. “I found myself freed of a burden, but in grief, our first reflex is to survive. We are constantly in lack of the other. With time, you realize the chance to be able to continue and we want to live for ourselves. “

    Seven years after the events, she has met Michel, who became her spouse. She now has two small children of 10 and 17 years. The scars of the past have healed. Janine Gagnon-Corbeil felt that it had the necessary perspective to address the question in the book A helpful natural as the other, published last fall. “I wanted to write my story for my grandchildren to know their grandfather, but also to bring justice to the women who, since the beginning of humanity, have always been there to take care of the sick without having got any recognition. “

    After all these tests, the lady appreciates what she has today. She knows that life is hanging by a thread. “We have a nice plan and organize our entire existence, we’re not really the captain of our boat, she noted. At a given moment, we live all of the events that come to break something in us. Our job is to continue and not to flee. “