Shortly before starting her role as the program coordinator of our Mundy House program, Tami learned she would lead her team to provide palliative care to Deb, a much‑loved resident who had been with Fraserside since 1990 when she transferred from the former Woodlands institution. Deb had been diagnosed with terminal stage 4 ovarian cancer.
“I accepted this assignment, even though it was a bit of a tug on the heart strings – I had lost a close family member to ovarian cancer just a couple years prior. It was a hard loss. I knew what lay ahead for Deb. In all honesty, I questioned my strength to accompany her, to witness this journey again.”
However, Tami had her team for support, and although providing this type of care was relatively new them, their commitment and passion for Deb boosted her courage - as did Deb’s reaction to seeing Tami again since 2010:
“When Deb saw me, she greeted me with that beautiful, trademark smile of hers. I felt honoured to be walking beside her in this final journey of her life.”
Deb’s support plan included palliative care – an increasingly common level of care that Fraserside provides its aging residents. Tami and her team coordinated with Fraser Health to meet Deb’s new needs, including managing her pain. They even arranged for Deb to have her hair styled and they hosted a party in honour of her 64th birthday! Unfortunately, Deb’s health began to deteriorate soon after. The team struggled at times and saw Deb suffer.
“I think that’s the hardest part of caring for someone dying of cancer – knowing that they are suffering with that kind of pain. You know that, for them, it’s a feeling of forever for that relief from pain to arrive.” During the wait for a hospice bed, Deb endured two trips to the hospital, resulting in the decision to turn her care completely over to the hospital’s palliative team. Tami and her team continued to keep Deb company and advocate for her needs with the hospital staff.
“There were good days and bad days,” shared Tami, explaining how the good ones were filled with laughter and singing, music and TV, and visiting with family and friends who brought her favourite treats – coffee and McDonald’s chocolate milkshakes. “But, as time went on, the bad days became more frequent. This was all too familiar to me. I knew it wouldn’t be long for her.”
Tami and Deb’s family remained attuned to Deb’s needs as she further declined. “She seemed to be hanging on for something. I asked Deb’s sister if Deb had already spoken with her brother who lived in the States. She hadn’t, so a call was made. He was able to talk to Deb and tell her it was ok to go now.” Within the hour, Deb passed.
Tami reflected on all that Deb had given her on this journey: “She taught me not just the things I would do differently next time, but that I really did have the strength to accompany someone in their final days. I am so blessed to have known this wonderful, sweet woman, with the most beautiful smile ever.”
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