While cancer is devastating to so many Islanders, it can also spur incredible growth and change in ones’ life. This was the case for Ruban Rebalkin. The summer of 2010 was busy and joyful for him and his wife, Faith, who had just given birth to the couple’s first child. To provide for his new family, Ruban worked three jobs. But that August, he got injured at his full-time job and had to take leave from work. “No biggie,” thought Ruban; he’d recover and be back to work soon…except for then, he wasn’t. Ruban continued to have pain in his hip well beyond the usual recovery time for his injury. When an MRI was run to find out why the injury wasn’t healing, they found a large tumour, and Ruban was diagnosed with plasmacytoma. Life suddenly looked very different.
Ruban found himself transitioning from the role of a provider and father to that of a dependant. The couple went from four income streams to one, relying on Faith’s maternity leave EI benefits to survive. All the while, Faith’s caregiving duties doubled. “At times my wife had to provide all of my care; it was like she had two infants,” Ruban recalls, “she had to do everything for me.” In order to be available to care for Ruban, Faith started a licensed in-home daycare. As Ruban gained strength and mobility, he was able to help with household chores, and he eventually felt ready to go back to work. His former jobs were all very physical though, and Ruban realized he needed to reevaluate what work might look like for him now. So he reached out to WorkLink Employment Society. There he took some career planning workshops to learn about jobs that might fit his new physical situation. “Jobs in sales were suggested, because I needed to be able to sit for some time, and move around at others, to keep my hip mobile,” he explains.
Ruban also accessed financial support from WorkLink, such as gas cards to allow him to attend workshops and appointments at the centre, and to attend job interviews. “My Case Manager was really helpful,” Ruban remembers, “She was even able to connect us to a fund that provided a gift card for groceries. I would look in the fridge sometimes and there was no food; there was just no food. Having this support kept us going.”
As time went on, the family’s financial picture improved. One morning, Ruban took his daughter to Tumblebums to play. While there, he noticed that the owner/operator was able to dictate his own movement and posture. Ruban realized this was exactly the type of job he wanted; he loved children and a business like this would allow him to move around while cleaning or assisting customers, and to sit while completing his deskwork. As luck would have it, the current owner was looking to sell the business. In 2016, Ruban and Faith were able to purchase Tumblebums and continue their passion of working with children and families.
Life looks very different for Ruban now. He and his wife remarked recently that their fridge didn’t have enough room for all of their food. He doesn’t take this fortune for granted, though. A pay-it-forward program exists at Tumblebums. If a parent comes in and their debit card is declined, there is often money other parents have donated to cover the cost. And they keep admission low to ensure all families can come and enjoy the fun. Life is joyful again, and Ruban is thrilled he’s able to share that with other families in Victoria now, too.