Patient Story: Sandra’s Inspiring Journey

Categories: Care.

Imagine her chagrin when the one wheelchair we got from Hospice was red!  I tried to lighten the mood by charging into the house and announcing that I had brought her, her very own red Ferrari!  ……………I suffered almost a minute of the most withering glare she could muster before she allowed us to get her into the chair to go to the doctor.  

When we got to the doctors rooms, I was searching for parking when she said “Hey!  We can use the disabled parking!”  …. We were unused to anything like this, so when I stopped the car and TWO people came running up, one to help me get the wheelchair out the boot and the other to assist my sister-in-law, our jaws nearly dropped.  She loved it so much, that once we had finished with the doctor, she looked at me with her naughtiest grin and said, “Let’s go use ALL of them!”.  Unsure what she meant, but happy to see her laugh, I agreed.  

She meant it you know.  She made me drive to every shopping centre in Nelspruit, stop in the disabled parking and allow the people to help us out, wheel her around the block and load up again to the next venue!  She kept me busy for HOURS!  Her name was Sandra and she died on the 1st of August after a 6 year fight with a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer.  She had her left breast removed, went through all the processes which Cancer forces you to take. She went for radiation; she lost all her beautiful hair with chemotherapy…three times.  She stoically forged her way through the mine-field of emotions.

Three years ago, the cancer metastasised, and she was facing Stage 4 cancer.  It had spread to her spine, her hips, her shoulder, it progressed, relentlessly into her liver, her lungs…..she was in pain pretty much constantly and still she forged on.  About a year ago, I tried to get her to join Hospice as a patient, but Sandra refused.  She was adamant that this cancer was not going to get her.  Then, two months before she died, on the 24th of June, she called me, she needed oxygen.I contacted Nelspruit Hospice who sent Marinda, the Hospice nurse, to see her. By the end of that day, Sandra had her oxygen, she had spent a lot of time with Marinda and in the space of two visits had reached a sense of peace with the consequences of her disease.

There were a lot of practical things that Hospice helped with.  Wheelchairs, eggshell mattresses, advice on pain management, guidance for bedsores, cot sides for the bed.  But the priceless gifts they gave us were the ones about family and about love.

Sandra has two boys Aged 11, 16.  Because of Hospice, she was able to face “That” conversation with them. She spoke to them of dying.  Told them how much she loved them, and started the process of saying her good-byes. She finally sorted out her legal stuff.  Spoke to her husband and her daughter. She got busy. She brought her family together and she arranged her own funeral.  She had it planned you know.  Down to the very last detail, she had just never had the words to articulate her wishes.Through Hospice, Sandra found her courage to deal with the difficult things. Through Hospice, we, as a family also found the courage to deal with them.

Sandra’s husband was so worried about the boys being there when Sandra died.  With Hospice, he found the understanding that this would actually be a good thing.  And the boys?  They found the ways to verbalise that they wanted to be with her.

There is no way that I can say that death of someone so loved can be pleasant. Death does feel so final.  ………..But………..
….Hospice allowed us to think about it all differently.  Sandra died early in the morning on the 1st.  We were all at her bedside with her.  All of us were touching her and Sandra left while being surrounded by us.  We had soft music playing, candles burning, and we were all murmuring how much we loved her.  I cannot think of a more peaceful and beautiful way to go.

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