Community & Supportive Care – Kate’s Story

As part of the seventh annual Handbags for Hospice, Kate Courey spoke about her mother’s experience at St. Joseph’s Hospice:

“Good evening and thank you for inviting me to share my family’s Hospice story. I feel many things have brought us to this special place, but my mom, Angela, was the main reason. My mom came from a large family. Being the youngest of nine, she had strong family values. My mother loved my brothers and me with all of her heart. She attended every school function and never missed an opportunity to take us on a family holiday. Mom was an avid gardener and that was where she was happiest.”

On June 30, 2014, our mom was diagnosed with stage four, metastatic cervical and breast cancer. She was only 53 years old. This news turned our world upside down. I immediately stepped into the role as her primary caregiver, with her sisters (my aunts) assisting me every step of the way. I will be forever grateful for their support. Together, we all faced the reality – it was no longer a matter of if we would lose her, but when.

“Mom would often talk about how cancer had taken over control of her life and ours, and in so many ways it did. Yet, because she was a strong woman, she decided to take back what little control she could. So, she planned where she would be when the end came, and St. Joseph’s Hospice was her choice.”

“The day we moved into Hospice was a blur. Rachel, one of the nurses, was waiting for me as I got off the elevator and gave me a warm hug, making everything feel like home right from the start. I was probably like most other family members at that moment, lost and broken, but she said to me, “We are here to take care of your mom now. Your job is just to be her daughter,” and that’s exactly what St. Joseph’s Hospice allowed me to be – not her caregiver but her daughter.”

“Over the next few weeks, my brothers, our husbands, and other family members made St. Joseph’s Hospice, our home. I roamed the halls for tea in my pyjamas on many sleepless nights. My husband left his slippers there, and we shared many family meals together.”

“The care mom was given was full of so much love and kindness. I remember one evening I was helping mom’s nurse, Debbie, to get mom settled in for the night when she pulled up a chair and said “Now Angela, I believe there is a special story behind the quilt you have. I want you to tell me all about it.” Mom went on to tell her it was one I had made for her when she started her chemo journey. At that moment, Debbie gave my mom a chance just be a mother sharing something her child had done and not someone facing the end of their life. As mom shared the story of our close bond and the love of her very precious “chemo quilt,” Debbie was moved to tears. Her empathy and emotion at that moment was the culmination of the expressions of everyone and everything at Hospice – authentic, genuine, and compassionate.”

“On June 30, 2017, we celebrated the three year anniversary of mom’s diagnosis. Three years as mom would always say – not fighting, but living. The staff helped us take mom out on the beautiful balcony to see the gardens and where we were able to savour those last family moments. On mom’s final days the staff were caring, supportive and gave mom as much dignity as she deserved as her life ended.”

“Mom passed away on July 10, 2017.  Nurse Rachel was on duty again, and we departed the same way we met – with a final hug. I left that day with the same lost and broken feeling as when I had first arrived. But this time I was leaving without my mom, and we were leaving behind a place that had so quickly become our home. We also left behind mom’s caregivers; the people who had become our family.”

“Last Spring, as I approached Mother’s Day, family birthdays, and the looming first anniversary of mom’s death, I decided to return to St. Joseph’s Hospice for a bereavement support group called H.E.A.L. – Helping Each other Acknowledge, Accept and Learn from Loss. I can’t tell you how much I gained from sharing my experience with others. I made special connections with people who are now close friends and learned valuable insight into my grief journey – feeling the ebbs and flows of adjusting to life without my mom. The most powerful part of the experience for me was reflecting on who mom was before her illness and death. Mom was so much more than “a woman who died of cancer.” She was a beautiful soul, who lived a life that deserved to be talked about; to be always remembered.”

“I am so thankful for the empowerment I feel from the bereavement programs at St. Joseph’s Hospice. In the darkest, lowest moments of life, they have supported me in discovering more about my own strength and resiliency. I just needed help and Hospice did just that. Thank you for being generous this evening and for the honour of sharing my family’s story.”

St. Joseph’s Hospice supports the whole family throughout their entire journey, including professional bereavement counselling when grieving the loss of a loved one. In fact, it is one of the fastest growing programs and entirely relies on the generosity of our community. You can make a difference and donate towards this vital cause.

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