Lorne Howes was a tall, skinny guy with big brown eyes. “The girls always liked him,” says brother Randy Howes. Their mom and dad raised the boys and sister Sandy in Carstairs in the 1960s and 70s. Lorne lived in Calgary for a year but, an avid hunter and fisherman, city life never took. After a hunting trip in his early 20s, Lorne was skinning some pelts and got the usual spate of little nicks. This time they didn’t heal properly, and he was bruising easily, too. Tests revealed acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Sure shot: Randy and friends Donald and Gwen Day, who own Silver Willow Golf and Sporting Club in Carstairs, host the annual Lorne Howes Clay Shoot for Cancer, held this year on April 21, benefitting the Alberta Cancer Foundation. Find out more at silverwillow.ca.
Doctors said that treatment would be aggressive and harsh and, if it knocked the AML into remission, might allow him six to 24 months month of relative good health. Randy spent a lot of time at his brother’s bedside at Calgary’s Holy Cross Hospital in the weeks that followed and, happily, Lorne’s cancer went into remission for five years. But it came back in 1988. No one in the family was a match to donate bone marrow, a procedure that might have saved him, and the bone marrow donor registry was years away from being a viable tool.
At the time, Randy was a university student when 30-year-old Lorne, by this time finished with chemo, called to invite him to his home in Cremona for a meal with him and a group of friends. Deep into a group project with a deadline, Randy told him he’d see him on the weekend instead. But the next day Lorne collapsed and friends rushed him to the hospital in Calgary, starting CPR on the way – they knew Randy and the rest of the family would want to say goodbye. Randy and his parents made it to the hospital quickly, but Sandy, living in High River, was harder to reach.
“There was this young nurse, and she stayed with Lorne,” Randy says. The nurse squeezed a manual bag valve mask to breathe for Lorne until Sandy made it to say her goodbyes. “That nurse must have stood there squeezing that bag for three hours.”
Years later, Randy became a spokesperson for bone marrow donation a bone marrow donor for another Southern Alberta man.