It takes a special kind of person to hold someone’s hand as they die or to comfort a family as they find out their loved one is terminally ill. Often these wonderful and kind people who work in palliative care, making the last days of a person’s life comfortable and free of pain, are overlooked. Most of us are uncomfortable with the idea of death which means we don’t often think about those places where death is a daily occurrence. However, without these kind people, the thought of dying would be even more lonely.
My sister is one of those special people. When my cousin Madeleine, a mother of 2 young children, was dying of cancer it was my sister Allyson and the staff on the Palliative Care Unit at Princess Margaret Hospital who cared for Maddy in her final days.
I admire my sister greatly for her strength during that time. The boundaries between the professional and the personal were blurred and her commitment to both was astounding. Now, in honour of Madeleine and all of the other mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and sons and daughters who have passed away in their care, the Palliative Care team at Princess Margaret Hospital are giving again. The staff as well as family and friends are participating in the Toronto Marathon’s 5k Walk/Run to raise money to support the patients and their families during their stay in Palliative Care at PMH.
Please read my sister’s note below and click here to sponsor Allyson Clarke or me, Jennifer Maier, of the Palliative Pacers team.
Three years ago I was fortunate enough to get a job as a Clinical Nurse Specialist on the Palliative Care Unit at Princess Margaret Hospital. From the very beginning I was awed with the devotion of the team for the patients and families in their care. Over the years I have met incredible people being cared for on the unit and have seen amazing moments between our whole team and the wonderful people who need our care. It has been a privilege to be a part of the Palliative Care Unit and I am excited to participate on the Palliative Pacers 5K Walk/Run team and hope to raise funds to help further impact the care we provide to the patients and families that come to our unit.
My appreciation for palliative care units and Princess Margaret's in particular grew immensely when 2 years ago my cousin Madeleine was not responding to treatment for cervical cancer and was told that she was palliative. Madeleine had severe pain and other symptoms and required admission to our palliative care unit. I was able to see first hand the incredible difference good palliative care and compassionate people make for someone like Madeleine.
Through 2 admissions and eventually Madeleine's death I experienced the dedication and commitment the palliative care team had for Madeleine, her two young children and our whole family. Madeleine frequently told me how relieved she was to be on our unit and how grateful she felt for the care she received. I will also be forever indebted to the palliative care team as they always understood and supported me while balancing both working on the palliative team and being a family member to a patient on the unit.
I am walking with the Palliative Pacers in hopes of supporting continued care of people like Madeleine. I thank you for any support you provide to help us reach our goal.
Allyson is an Advanced Practice Nurse on the Palliative Care Unit at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. Allyson and her cousin, Madeleine, were born six days apart. Maddy will always be close to her heart. Read In The Process of Dying There is Living, another post by Allyson.