MONT CARMEL - It’s been nearly seven years since her diagnosis, and cancer still isn’t slowing Paula Gallant down.
“In 2011 I was told I had breast cancer. By the time they had told me, it was in stage 4 and it had spread to my lungs.”
Gallant decided to forgo traditional treatments, instead taking chemotherapy pills daily to prolong her life.
“If we had gone the traditional route, my doctors said I wouldn’t even have two years because it would be so harsh on my body.
“It’s been almost seven years. I’m not dead yet.”
Gallant did have a scare about three years ago when she couldn’t breathe and the lack of oxygen began to turn her body blue.
Once she got out of the hospital, she decided to spend what time she has to give back to others.
“My husband told me I could have anything I wanted. So I told him I wanted to have Christmas house tours, but if people wanted to come through, they had to bring a non-perishable item that we will donate to a family in need in the community.”
This year marks the third season of her Christmas house tours.
“Three hundred people came through the house the other weekend. It’s always surprising how many come out because they want to help others.”
The fundraiser helps about four families each year, supplying them with a full Christmas meal and three boxes of food and presents.
The families are kept anonymous, and only Gallant and her husband know who they are.
“It feels really special to be able to help families in our own community like this. It’s all about giving back and celebrating the joy of giving to others.”
Each room has a different theme and atmosphere, from blue-lit winter wonderland to a rustic cabin, to a regal dining room.
“It’s really lovely when people come through the house. I’ve had visitors cry over some of the displays, especially the old-fashioned Christmas display.”
There are a lot of unique items in the home like an old milk separator or a generations-old fiddle.
“We usually reuse old Christmas decorations that have been given to us, or one of my sisters and I will go to yard sales. It’s fun decorating the house.”
Gallant’s favourite room is the cozy living room, with a tree full of elves, a fireplace and a traditional red and green theme.
But her favourite decorative piece is her angel of hope.
“I had this old mannequin’s body I used when I sew. We had this old chicken wire and an old Christmas tree. My husband made the chicken wire look like the bottom of a big puffy ball gown. Then we hooked branches from the tree onto the wire to act as the material of a dress. We put a shirt on it and she was ready. The hardest things to make were the wings.
“You wouldn’t think it was so hard to find a big amount of white feathers, but my sister and I couldn’t find them anywhere.”
Finally they found feathers off of an old Christmas tree that was for sale. Gallant and her sister got to work and before long the angel had wings.
“I call her hope, because when you’re faced with cancer or other hard times, you need to have hope and courage. You need to keep fighting because no one else is going to fight for you.”