Anne Harris's Story - Her Sister

My sister was a young woman. She was in her early 50’s; I consider that young. And she was diagnosed in, she had complained of back pain for a long number of years and she was going to her GP on a regular basis. And the GP was saying she had some weight on her so the GP was saying it’s your weight, you need to lose weight but he never sent her for any tests. And unfortunately then it came to a crunch that she got a severe episode of pain and when she was admitted to the acute hospital setting then she was diagnosed with cancer, ovarian cancer and ovarian cancer is a very rapid kind of cancer that goes through the body very quickly.

So we were all shocked, needless to say, to hear that. And I have to say the oncology care in the acute hospital was excellent and she had such a sympathetic consultant, who listened to her and listened to her symptoms and treated her accordingly. So she was admitted back to an acute hospital in Ireland and it was dreadful. For the next eight weeks she spent she was in pain constantly. There was no one consultant looking after her. The care was just dreadful for her. But as it happened anyway she was discharged to one of the step down units and she was cared for there for the following couple of months so she remained there until her family decided that, when they knew the end was coming, that they would like to care for her at home. And they brought her home and we had a palliative care team in from the community and again I can’t stress how good and how caring they were.

It was from pain relief to turning her in the bed, to bowel management; they just did everything that she could have needed. So I suppose my sister never really did accept that she had cancer, and when palliative care was mentioned to her initially in the step down unit she was reluctant to know about it. And we spoke to her at length as a family member and particularly as a nurse I tried to explain that she’d get a lot more comfort from having the palliative care and they would be there on a regular basis, to adjust her meds [medication] if she needed something.

The palliative care team were very much on board and they were very direct about their care, they explained everything as they went along and why their services were needed and what they would be doing on an ongoing basis and how often they would be coming in and so on. So unfortunately she passed away, but she passed away at home, the team had been there and in fact they very discreetly left us when they knew the end had come and we were there with her as a family. So it was nice, again, nice, different experience but two positive experiences of palliative care, I have to say, and very emotional, but certainly very caring.