“We can’t all sit here and mourn her if she isn’t gone”: celebrating National Palliative Care Week

Palliative care patient Patricia Morris spends her days with family by her side.

This National Palliative Care Week, Patricia Morris refuses to let anything dampen her spirits, despite knowing her time is limited.

After being diagnosed with melanoma in late 2019, Patricia’s cancer spread further throughout her body – later being marked as incurable.

Currently in Mount Druitt’s Supportive and Palliative Care Unit, the western Sydney resident will live out her final months with family, friends and health heroes by her side.

Son Darren and daughter Jodie visit Patricia everyday, making sure she is comfortable

Reflecting on her life, Patricia said she has no complaints, singing the praises of her two children, Jodie and Darren, who visit her every day.

“I have been blessed with a wonderful family who cares for me so deeply,” Patricia said.

“My husband, children and grandchildren have been with me every step of the way, always ensuring I am comfortable and in no pain.”

Since her diagnosis, the cancer has infiltrated her spinal cord, brain and various other parts of her body.

Patricia suffered a stroke in February 2020 as a result of her cancer, leaving her bedridden and unable to walk.

An immunotherapy trial to potentially eliminate the cancer sadly had to end when the cancer reached her spine.

Lifelong friends and cousins also regularly pop in to visit Patricia,

“We are forever grateful for the clinical trial, as it gave me extra time to spend with the ones I love,” Patricia said.

“It didn’t cure my cancer but what they learn from me may allow them to save the lives of hundreds of people in the future.

“If I can help one person get cured of this horrible disease, it is worth every cent and more.”

Although challenging, daughter Jodie Morris said they take each day as it comes, refusing to dwell on the things they cannot control.

“Every day I wake up, and I am grateful to know mum is still alive,” Jodie said.

“I know the day will come but we can’t all sit here and mourn her if she isn’t gone.

“We focus on the happy moments, the memories that we have together, and the laughter that we can still share.”

Patricia’s family show their love and admiration

Growing up, Jodie describes their childhood as adventurous with her mum always encouraging her to get out and live life to the fullest.

“Mum was a great role model for Darren and me. She would always go out of her way to take us to the park or on a holiday. We never wanted for anything.

“Moments like these really shine a light on the importance of family and the importance of friendship. We are so grateful for the lives we’ve lived and for each day we see mum’s smile.”

Staff are currently supporting Patricia’s pain management to ensure she is as comfortable as possible.

“Mum chose to be transferred from palliative care at home to the unit here at Mount Druitt,” Jodie said.

“The staff here are next to none. They are constantly keeping us informed about mum’s care and progress. They are worth their weight in gold.”

Palliative care at home – William’s story

When Cheryl Row’s husband died of cancer 14 years ago, the couple’s two adult sons moved back into the family home in North Parramatta to take care of Cheryl.

At the time, Cheryl would never have imagined she would end up becoming the primary carer for her eldest son William who also had cancer and passed away peacefully at home on Tuesday 18 May, aged 44.

For the past seven months, William was able to receive home care, which Cheryl said was only made possible by the tireless and dedicated efforts of Silver Chain’s palliative care team.

The Silver Chain nurses made it possible for Billy to stay at home which is where he wanted to be. I couldn’t have done this without them. They were absolute angels,” Cheryl said.

William’s end-of-life story of compassionate care highlights the importance of professional at-home care during National Palliative Care Week,

Early last year, William started feeling stomach pains but doctors could not work out what was causing the discomfort – until it was too late. By the end of July, he was diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer that had spread to his liver, lymph nodes and bones.

He tried just two rounds of chemotherapy and immunotherapy but had to stop treatment in October after becoming too weak.

“Billy then started getting palliative care from Silver Chain and I can’t speak highly enough about them (palliative care nurses). He came every day, sometimes twice a day, helping us with everything, whether it was getting advice or managing his pain medication.

“One time I called them at midnight and they were at our house within 14 minutes. They always came in with a smile and cheered him up.

William passed away on 18 May 2021.

“Having Billy at home meant he could have his mates visit him any time. It wasn’t unusual to have about half a dozen visits a week. It meant so much that Billy could stay at home with me and his brother Brad and have everyone else around him.”

Cheryl said the wake would be held at the Tollgate Hotel where Billy helped run a social club.

Across WSLHD hospitals we have excellent palliative care specialist clinicians to support patients requiring care in hospital where this is needed.

To meet changing community expectations, we have partnered with palliative care provider Silver Chain to provide in-home palliative care to patients in western Sydney who have advanced, progressive and life-limiting illnesses.

Silver Chain’s NSW Palliative Care Service provides in-home specialist palliative care services in western Sydney for people with a life-limiting illness or condition. The palliative care team consists of nurses, clinical nurse consultants and care aides.

Each year, the NSW Government invests more than $220 million in palliative care. Since 2017, the NSW Government has provided $145 million of enhanced funding to improve access and choice in palliative care and work to reduce avoidable hospital admissions. The 2020-21 NSW Budget will include a $56 million funding boost for palliative care.

National Palliative Care week in western Sydney

During National Palliative Care Week information stalls were held across WSLHD hospitals.

At Blacktown Hospital the team helped more than 40 community members and staff obtain information and advice about advanced care planning, translated material and a discussion starter manual.

“Blacktown has a high number of people who require end of life care, so it was positive to see so many families seeking information and asking questions,” Blacktown Hospital’s End of Life Care clinical nurse specialist, Avril Egerton said.

“Palliative Care is not just the last days of life its living well with a life limiting illness.

“Many families asked us questions on how they can be involved in the planning and coordination of the care of their loved ones.

“These actions are what we strive for with ‘What Matters Most’ being at the core of our service,” she said.

This year’s National Palliative Care Week theme was “It’s more than you think”. Click here to read how WSLHD palliative care workers and volunteers have celebrated the week by focusing on living.