Mom was used to a lot of people being around, and that’s probably why she enjoyed it so much!
She grew up as the middle child in a family with seven children. She met and married Dad, a farmer from Dover Township, in the mid 70’s. They went on to have the four of us, and eventually our families expanded and there were soon 11 grandchildren.
While Mom and Dad were very community-oriented, her kids and grandkids, were her everything. Mom dedicated the majority of her time to taking care of her family. If she wasn’t cooking or cleaning, she was baking cakes and staying up until all hours of the night to make sure we had the best Halloween costumes every year. If we imagined we wanted to be it, Mom made it happen!
Mom was generally healthy, although she could be accident prone at times. In 2014, she started having some health issues, but they seemed to be under control for the most part. In the summer of 2018, we knew something wasn’t quite right. Mom had been to a series of appointments and she hadn’t been feeling the best, but, being the strong woman she was, Mom didn’t let on how quite how ill she had been feeling.
In early October, she was having chest pain and difficulty breathing, so Mom went to the hospital to get checked out. Initial instincts were that it was a heart attack, but tests, X-rays and a CT scan found spots on her lungs. This started the spiral of many appointments with various doctors and numerous tests. At the end of November, Mom was diagnosed with Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer, a very rare form of thyroid cancer, which had spread to her lungs. She was told she had approximately two months to live.
This shook our entire family. Arrangements were made for Mom to receive home care and we all tried to figure out how to keep her comfortable while at home, taking turns staying with Mom and Dad and doing whatever we could to make the situation work.
While we were all trying our best to adjust to this new reality, many friends and family learned of Mom’s illness and wanted to visit. Although the visits were appreciated, it became increasingly difficult to manage the visits as Mom was experiencing discomfort as her health began a steady decline.
By mid-December, Mom learned from her doctors that there was a trial treatment available to her. It wasn’t a cure, but there was a good chance it could slow the progression of her cancer. Mom tried the treatment for several weeks and it appeared to help, but she was suffering significantly from the side effects, and by the end of January the decision was made to stop the meds because it was having such a negative impact on her quality of life.
After she stopped the treatments, Mom appeared to rally. She began to get some of her energy back and for the first time in a long time, she wanted to get out and do some of the things she liked to do best. Mom still had difficulty breathing and needed oxygen and medications for pain management, but she was able to get out and enjoy her time on earth. She visited the Casino, went to the movies and was able to do some shopping. She went for lunch and enjoyed the company of her family and closest friends, knowing that her time was limited.
By the end of February, the pain caught up with her and Mom decided she was ready to go to Hospice. The home care team had provided information and shared the Hospice virtual tour video with us shortly after they had started to visit Mom at home. They provided information about Hospice and answered any questions we had. Mom had given a lot of consideration to her decision to go to the Hospice and believed that it was the best move for herself and our entire family.
Once Mom learned that there was a room available for her at Chatham-Kent Hospice, you could see a weight lift off of her. We packed up her clothes, including a new nightgown from one of her shopping trips, and got ready to go. Dad drove mom to hospice in his truck, just as he had done on their first date over forty years ago.
Once at the hospice, we were all given a tour of the facility. Mom saw the spa room and she couldn’t wait to have a jacuzzi in the massive tub. A long soak in the tub was something she hadn’t been able to enjoy very much in the last few months.
Once settled in her room, Mom looked very much at peace. You could visibly see the weight lift from both of our parents. The stresses and pressures of knowing the end was near had been playing heavily on everyone over the past couple of months, especially Dad. It seemed that Dad now knew Mom was in good hands and he could go home and rest for even a few hours if he needed.
Our entire family was able to visit and be at Hospice with Mom at any time of the day or night. The grandchildren were able to visit and the staff were nothing but caring and generous, helping all of us and our children to fully understand what was happening to Grandma. It made them feel better knowing she was safe.
We took turns spending the night with Mom at hospice so she wouldn’t have to be alone. Although we were away from home, Hospice felt like home for the short time Mom was there.
The clinical team gave us information and answers and helped us to understand what was happening and what we could expect next. It was also very comforting to know that Mom’s pain was being carefully managed and that she was not suffering. Pain management was key for Mom’s end of life, and knowing that the staff at Hospice could handle this was another relief.
Mom was awake and aware for about 3 days at Hospice and then she started to slip away. The care and compassion for not only Mom, but our entire family, was unbelievable. Hospice provided us with comfort and peace and took away the stress and worry we were experiencing during Mom’s final days.
Although we understood the services Hospice offered, we didn’t truly understand the importance of Hospice until we were faced with this life-changing experience.
Mom would have wanted us to share her story. Our hope is that it will help other families understand how Hospice can help them. The knowledge and compassion of both the staff and volunteers at Hospice was something words cannot describe. Sharing our Mom’s story is our way of honouring her. She will forever be in our hearts. We love you mom!