It’s really hard for someone who has always been on the giving side to suddenly be on the receiving side.

That’s what’s happened to Karen MacDonald, a typical busy suburban mother, active at her local school, church and her Ajax community.

Friends say she can never say no — rushing, for example, to raise money for a teen with cancer, flipping pancakes for a parent-council fundraiser, or helping kids cross safely to school.

But in recent months, MacDonald has been forced to cut back on her volunteer work because she is battling a serious liver disease that may require a transplant at some point.

“I love giving because I have fun giving,” said MacDonald. “I’m not a good receiver. I’m uncomfortable with it.” The 45-year-old mother handles a bustling household, with daughter Cassandra, 10, and son Joshua, 14, who was born with Down syndrome and epilepsy.

Her husband Tim, 44, commutes to a job in Toronto, which means long days on the road, but MacDonald doesn’t complain, saying they are lucky he has steady work.

She has helped children at school who need extra help to boost their reading skills. “I love kids.

I love seeing them at the beginning struggling to read, but at the end they’re reading and you had a true part in it.

“She sees need. She gets it. She pays attention to people,” said Gillian McShane-Shields, pastor of the church’s children and family ministry. “It’s a rare quality.”

For a long time, MacDonald would downplay her illness, trying to do as much as possible.

But MacDonald has now discovered that others are just as keen to help.

“People are so kind,” she said. “This has taught us valuable life lessons about friendship.”

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