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Ailing Port Orchard man gets new home

With likely just a few months left to enjoy of this life, Don McKay of Southworth is determined to enjoy every second remaining.

And thanks to a local volunteer organization, he has a nearly brand-new house in which to enjoy that time.

“What they did was just totally awesome,” said McKay, describing the work that more than 70 volunteers from Need-A-Break Services completed Saturday on the home he and his wife, Cathy, have lived in with their four children since 1993. “You wouldn’t believe it’s the same place — it’s had quite the transformation.”

McKay himself has undergone quite the transformation as well. Just a few months ago, he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer — and told he had from three to six more months to live.

“It was mind-blowing,” he recalled of getting the news, explaining that the location of the cancer — on the crucial portal vein that carries blood from the liver to the intestines — meant it was inoperable.

“There is nothing they can do. They can’t cut it out, they can’t blast it with chemo. That news brought us to tears, but our doctors were good about it,” he said.

While absorbing the news, McKay realized there were many things he would not be able to do, including completing much-needed repairs on his 30-year-old home.

“They were in extreme need of help,” said Julie Bodine of Need-A-Break Services, based in Tacoma, explaining that Cathy McKay contacted the organization after learning how the group helped a Gig Harbor woman recently. “It was one of Don’s last wishes to have his home fixed up, and once we got to know them we wanted to help them. They were just so genuinely humble, and had been having a really rough time — the (illness) was just so sudden.”

Bodine said her organization typically offers people less elaborate offers of assistance, such as help paying emergency auto repairs or other bills that could threaten to derail someone who is just barely making ends meet every month.

“But (the McKays) had an extreme situation that need an extreme response,” she said, explaining that dozens of volunteers descended on the home Saturday to out on a new roof, new siding, a new deck, and new paint inside and out.

“They put in all new counter-tops and flooring in the kitchen, and new flooring in the second bathroom which was never finished,” she said. “They could never use it.”

The land surrounding the house is extensive, Bodine said, but was largely full of “brush and muck. Now, the landscapers have basically transformed it into a park.”

After the big changes, the group concentrated on adding a few special touches to make it “a little bit more homey,” Bodine said.

“They had always dreamed of sitting on the back porch, so we had a nice porch swing put back there,” she said. “And to make Don more comfortable, we got him a new recliner to relax in.”

McKay said the new touches will definitely help in his remaining days, since he said his focus now is on “quality over quantity.

“Leaving my family will be the thing that hurts the most,” he said, explaining that he has four children, and now four grandchildren he would like to see grow up. “But God is going to take me on his time, and I’m just trying to enjoy every second of it. It’s been a good learning experience and transition, like starting over again and being grateful for what we have — a strong family and we’re rich in friends.”

For more information visit www.needabreak.org

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