Kindness provides support for Mackay dad battling cancer
It's a simple word of just eight letters, but it's a word that's brought infinite strength and support to the Gakowski family over the past few months.
Yesterday, Mackay dad and husband Sheldon Gakowski turned 43 surrounded by friends, family and the wider community who have been inspired by his journey as he battles terminal cancer. It was a birthday his family - and he - didn't think he would be around to see.
"You know I was told I only had two to three months (in March), so every day we've had since is a blessing," Sheldon says.
"It's hard to get out of bed some days... but to see the amount of support we have is incredible.
"(My wife) Suzanne is a strength. You wouldn't be human if it didn't get to you, but the support we and the boys have..."
As he looks around the balloon-scattered room, thousands of birthday cards from near and far cover the walls of the Kohuna Sands function centre.
"This isn't even a quarter of them," he says with a grin.
His story has now reached countless people - from the Mackay region, to around Australia and even across the world.
"He's got a card from The Project team who heard his story, and he even got a handwritten card from Commodore Peter Scott (Director of Navy Submarine Capability) who also sent him a set of dolphin pins, which are extremely hard to earn in the navy," Sheldon's wife Suzanne says. "But Peter said the pins signified courage and he said that's what our family has done."
That courage has inspired others with the message that every day counts, and to spend it with the people you love.
"When I see cards that say 'thank you for showing us that family matters' I know that our story is touching people," Sheldon says. "There was one that said their family now turn off the TV at night and all sit around the dinner table because you never know when things can change for the worse."
For Sheldon, seeing his boys wearing matching bright blue T-shirts with '#kindnesswins' written on the front summed up what the day was all about.
"It's all about supporting people through whatever journey they're going through," Sheldon says.
"I just hope that other people going through tough times get the same support and kindness that my family has been given.
"It's not an easy thing to go through. But having that support and encouragement from the community and your family is sometimes all you need to get you through."