The Emily Ann Foundation was created in March of 2022, but this is not where the story starts.
Emily Ann Niinemets was born in Comox BC on November 10, 1987. From a young age, Emily was all about animals and laughing. With a passion for life, she lived every day to the fullest. Emily was an only child and lived with her mom, Heidi Niinemets, in Comox BC for almost her whole life. Emily was a joy and made so many friends throughout her life, she enjoyed summer camp and all the normal stuff a kid would like.
As Emily grew her passion for life grew with her, touching the lives of everyone she met. She had a very strong relationship with many people and this never stopped. Emily had a presence about her and her personality was so bright that it could be seen from miles away. In 2002 Emily met Shawn, unknowing to her one day she would marry him. Shawn was known as a bit of a bad boy at the time and Emily denied a relationship for quite some time, “making him work for it”, as she would later tell others.
Emily in grade 10 and Shawn in grade 12 both attended Highland secondary in Comox BC. Creating an unbreakable bond they grew closer and closer as the years went on. On New Year's Eve of 2004, at midnight Shawn dropped to one knee and proclaimed his love and intentions. After graduating Emily and Shawn moved to Nanaimo where they started their life together. Twist and turns would eventually bring them back to the Comox Valley.
In August of 2011, before the couple went for a vacation to Mexico, Emily noticed a lump on her neck, Dr’s saying that she was just a bit sick and was ok to travel. Unknown to the couple this was much more than a cold. By December of 2011, the bump had grown. Emily and Shawn were now concerned about this bump., and the Dr had finally agreed to test this through a biopsy and blood work.
At the beginning of January 2012, Emily received a call from her Dr, the results were back and she was diagnosed with diffused B cell non-hodgkin's lymphoma. Emily immediately started a chemo regimen. After a few weeks, the lumps were disappearing, but she developed a fever causing her to stop chemo. Once the infection was under control she resumed chemo therapy, only to find out that she had become resistant to that regimen. Emily was transferred to St. Pauls's Hospital in Vancouver BC.
Emily spent the next 3 months in Vancouver undergoing all kinds of different chemo regiments. Emily's mom, Heidi, and Shawn took turns staying with Emily in the hospital to ensure she wouldn't have to battle alone. Shawn had to sleep on hospital floors, in his car, and at times in parks or on the street. It became very apparent that there is no funding for people in their situation. This was a tough obstacle but the couple was determined to not be apart if they didn't need to be.
In May of 2012 Emily was told that her illness had become terminal and she had 2 options:
Option 1: Remain in hospital and undergo radiation and chemotherapy to prolong the time she had left (was given 6 months to 1 year). This would not cure her and it would be a very difficult road that would only extend her life by a few months.
Option 2: She could stop all treatment and return home to have a quality of life during her last days.
Emily decided she wanted to spend the remainder of her days surrounded by her friends and family. This journey would not be an easy one in any way.
Shawn, who was deeply supportive of her decision, knew he had to do something! He asked Emily if there was anyone wish that she wanted what it would be. Shawn reassured Emily that no matter what the ask was he would make it happen. Emily didn't have to think long, almost immediately saying, “the only thing I would wish for is to be your wife, let's get married!” Shawn was absolutely over the moon at this request. Shawn started his campaign to give Emily the dream wedding to fulfill this final wish.
It was then that Shawn started to fundraise any way he could, reaching out to the community and the local news. After only a few weeks Shawn was able to raise over $10,000 and with donations coming in like crazy the wedding was on! On July 3rd of 2012, Emily and Shawn were wed in a small gathering in Courtenay BC surrounded by all of their friends and family. This was the most beautiful ceremony, and Emily was the most beautiful bride that the world would ever see.
During all of these struggles, Emily was never seen without a smile, her laugh echoing in their ears and down hallways. The fact that she was not going to be around for more than a few months did not stop Emily from allowing her positivity to shine through, changing countless lives through the process. Emily's grace and attitude were nothing short of remarkable and Shawn did everything he could to keep her happy and motivated.
Shawn grew up in a very christian home and was against tattoos and piercings. He would never judge others but it wasn't for him. On July 11th, 2012, with Emily by his side Shawn got a tattoo over his heart. This would symbolize the changes she had instilled in him and would forever be in love with her. The next day Emily started to go downhill and she was admitted by ambulance to St. Josephs's Hospital in Comox BC.
Tragically on July 14th, 2012, only 11 days after they were wed, Emily lost her battle with cancer just after 6 pm. Shawn had only left the hospital long enough to go home to shower and eat before returning to be with her. Shawn before leaving the hospital that day apologized to Emily. “I am so sorry that I am so selfish, I don't want you to leave! You are my wife and I don't want to go on without you, but I do not want you to continue to suffer in pain just for me. If you need to leave I will not be mad, my love.” Emily's response is something that Shawn will never forget. She responded “Shawn, you are the most selfless person I have ever known, you give your everything to everyone and would give the shirt off your back to anyone who needed it. I love you so much!” Shawn had no idea but these would be the last words he would ever hear her speak.
Shawn went down a very dark path filled with drugs and alcohol, denying his grief and hiding from everyone he loved. Shawn moved to Alberta and left what he thought were his problems behind, this continued for the next 7 years. In February of 2019, Shawn moved to Parksville leaving his addiction behind. In October of 2019, Shawn undertook guardianship of his great nephew and his path started to become clear. Helping others was always deep inside of Shawn and in February of 2022, Shawn knew what he had to do. One month later Shawn officially incorporated the Emily Ann Foundation. No One Should Be Alone was his path!
Shawn is determined to ensure that others suffering the same fate that Emily did would not have to go through it alone. The Emily Ann Foundation is here to help with final wishes and provide accommodation to family members while they are undergoing treatment. No One Should Be Alone is now the path that Shawn follows. This is the beginning of the Emily Ann Foundation and we need your help to make this a reality! Please donate and support in any way you can!