The family of international sailor Derek Hatfield says they are struggling financially after his sudden death, saying they poured everything they had into his sailing career.

“I'm sure just coming off of the Olympics, any of the athletes that are coming home will tell you that you put things aside,” said Hatfield’s widow Patianne Verburgh. “You put life aside.”

After becoming the first Canadian to sail around the world alone two different times, Hatfield was focusing on being a dad to his two young children.

He was diagnosed with throat cancer in February.

“He was treated very quickly and very successfully, but after the treatment contracted an infection that he wasn't able to recover from,” said Verburgh.

The couple was making plans to build a house and get married. Verburgh says they’re now struggling in more ways than one.

“The children's education fund went into the boat and the debt is very large now,” she said.

By Nova Scotia law, Verburgh can't access assets in his name for six months, meaning she can't sell assets for which she no longer has use.

“There is a notion that international athletes do very well financially. It is not true across the board,” she said.

Verburgh is grateful the community has come together to try and help.

“We worked together, we live together. It's like dog years in a relationship, honestly. With that part of you gone, it leaves you very weak. So when you have the support of the local community, it's outstanding. It really is.”

Despite her current hardship, Verburgh lives with no regrets for the choices they made together.

She says Derek Hatfield will be remembered as an ordinary man who did extraordinary things.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kayla Hounsell.