Sandi Cadeau thinks life is a gift and she has the name to back up her belief.
“I always knew I was a gift, but I had to get married to prove it,” she laughs, noting the English translation of Cadeau is gift.
The epitome of happiness as a choice, Cadeau has an infectious laugh and a comedic view of life – her own and others. That she has such a love of life is testament to an irrepressible spirit that bubbles over, despite the challenges of living with cerebral palsy.
“Challenges? It’s more like adventures,” grins Cadeau. “Everyone has challenges. The only thing I can’t do is drive or tie my shoes – and that’s what husband’s are for.”
Cadeau met Jason 16 years ago when they were both upgrading their skills in Kelowna – she prepping for a business administration course and he in cook training.
“As soon as we saw each other we knew we’d be together forever,” she says. “We just relaxed and took everything little by little. We didn’t move in together for the first four years.”
Jason has cerebral palsy as well, but he has faster reactions, she says.
The couple, who will celebrate four years of marriage this month, moved to Salmon Arm eight years ago to be closer to family and to get jobs.
“Neither one of us was working and we wanted to work,” she says. “Living on disability is no fun and Kelowna is not the place to work.”
Cadeau says people have to “fit the part” in the Okanagan city and the couple’s ‘fit’ here is a lot better.
“We don’t feel different,” she says, adding, with a laugh, “personally, I have never felt different.”
Cadeau, who has the use of her right arm only, says she loves her job at the Downtown Activity Centre, where she works a split shift.
“In the morning I’m a custodian and in the afternoons I’m the office girl,” she says. “But I do a lot of cleaning at night when no one’s bothering me, and I am the host for the building so I do a lot of smiling.”
Cadeau works only half a day on Friday, after which she is known to “put a ‘do-not-disturb’ sign on my head” in order to catch up on her shows and soaps.
She is extremely proud of her husband, who works for Mounce Construction as a labourer and delivery person.
The effervescent woman, who turns 41 in June, maintains life is all about attitude and that people choose to be happy or angry – and happiness requires less energy.
“Maybe I was born without the anger gene,” she laughs, pointing to her left leg, which is supported by a brace. “And I need my energy for walking.”
Born prematurely, Cadeau says she developed cerebral palsy following an early surgery.
“It happened, I don’t remember it,” she says dismissively, noting there was no giving up in her family, rather an attitude of “you can do it, you just have to find a way to do it your way.”
Cadeau had chores, had to babysit and got a job at a summer day camp in Manitoba when she was 16.
“I was an only child,” she says with a giggle. “Once you have the perfect one, why have more?”
Her family moved to Kelowna shortly after Cadeau graduated from high school. But Cadeau remained in Flin Flon, Manitoba. She moved to Kelowna in 1992 where she took a special needs worker course and worked at the Boys and Girls Club.
“I got laid off and never worked again for 13 years,” she says with a grimace. “I was so bored and so broke.”
When she first arrived in Salmon Arm, Cadeau provided some respite for Shuswap Association of Community Living clients and volunteered at Shuswap Veterinary Clinic.
“I feel very gifted with the people around me – friends, family and my wonderful husband.”
Four years ago, the couple cemented their relationship, marrying in Las Vegas.
“It was a blast, and every year or two we go back,” Cadeau says. “And when we retire, we want to go there – no arthritic pain. We don’t even open the Advil bottle when we’re there.”
Pain. That’s another daily companion that Cadeau does her best to ignore, pointing out if she concentrated on it, she would sit down and do nothing.
“I do fall, I trip and land on my knees and elbows, and I look like a four-year-old falling off a tricycle,” she says with another infectious laugh. “But, I am falling less and less.”
If she does fall, Cadeau knows just how to pick herself up.