Hospice helps a family feel ‘normal’ even at the end

A life defined by strength, determination, resilience, generosity and kindness; that is how Kristen’s family described her.

Kristen touched the lives of so many people through the years, including her family members and close friends, people she mentored, worked with, and taught at the pool, and people she met in the community. Kristen was well-known for being caring and kind, strong and determined, energetic and resilient but one of Kristen’s rare gifts was her generosity of spirit. Kristen gave all of herself in every interaction because she was genuinely interested in how others were doing.  She took the time to connect with people and she had a way of making everyone feel like they mattered.  Kristen took pleasure in the simple things in life. She grew a big vegetable garden, was an outdoor adventurer, loved late-night smores by the fire, large food-filled family gatherings, swimming in the pool and wandering through the bush with her family.

Together with her husband John, Kristen had two wonderful children, Brayden and Emma. Brayden and Emma were the loves of Kristen’s life.  She was incredibly proud of their accomplishments and who they had become as people. Kristen welcomed their future daughter-in-law Tara into the family, and she adored her granddaughter Aria.  Kristen loved her family unconditionally and they brought her endless joy and love.

Approximately 7 years ago, Kristen noticed lumps on her neck. Due to a family history of fatty cysts these lumps were not concerning however, when they continued to grow, she had them looked at again.  After a biopsy, she was diagnosed with Follicular Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and was told the best course of action was to “watch and wait.”  She continued to have routine visits with her hematologist at the London Regional Cancer Centre for two years. Once she started cancer treatments, she continued to live the most normal life possible. She remained a strong and unwavering optimist throughout her treatments.  Unfortunately, the cancer continued to progress and in late summer of 2019 she learned that her body was no longer responding to the treatment like they had hoped it would.

Realizing treatment was no longer an option, and knowing Kristen did not want to be in hospital, but could not be at home, it was decided that Hospice would be the best option of care for Kristen.

Chatham-Kent Hospice offered Kristen an environment that was quiet, peaceful, and comforting while providing a welcoming space for John, Brayden, Tara, Aria and Emma, as well as family and friends. Kristen’s stay at hospice was prior to the start of the pandemic so there were no visitor restrictions in place at that time. Family and friends were welcome to visit at any time. The openness of the building, homemade soups and cookies, shared spaces to come together with others, private spaces to be alone and Kristen’s room made it feel closer to being at home.

The hospice staff’s understanding, kindness, compassion and care made it feel like Kristen was the only person in the building. “The staff listened to Kristen, empowered her to make decisions and treated her with dignity and respect.  Simply – it was beautiful” shared her sister Melanie.  Her daughter Emma remembers being encouraged to climb into bed beside her mom like she used to at home.

“It felt like the staff and volunteers loved being there and helping people. I loved that I could do normal stuff like watch TV in bed with Mom and when I had to leave, I knew she was in good hands,” shared Emma.

“No matter what life experience you have, no one is ever prepared to lose a person who is loved so deeply, but experiences can also be a source of strength as you grieve.  Chatham-Kent Hospice cared not only for Kristen but for us her family by offering kindness, compassion and ongoing supports” shared her family.

Shared in loving memory of Kristen.