You would never guess by looking at Julie that she was ill. Her smile beams out at everyone she meets, and her peals of laughter can be heard from miles away. At our weekly support group, Julie is always the one lifting everyone else’s spirits, full of positive energy and optimism.
Julie has been a Helderberg Hospice patient for over five years. Originally diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, Julie had a mastectomy and recovered well after the operation. It was only two years later, when the cancer returned, this time in her leg, that she sought support and assistance from us.
Over the past five years, Julie’s health has slowly declined. As each cancer rears and is bravely beaten into submission with treatment and, it sometimes seems, sheer will-power, so it stubbornly arises again in another part of her body. The constant battle is exhausting, yet not once will you see Julie show signs of giving in.
A long time attendee of Day Hospice, Julie was a real character and was always ready to help and support the other patients. She was also a regular patient in our IPU (In Patient Unit), where patients may stay for up to two weeks at a time receiving intensive palliative care. Julie took it upon herself to help other patients in the unit whilst she was there, buoying them up and entertaining them with amusing stories and anecdotes.
One of the reasons that Julie was so desperate to hold on was for her granddaughter Molly. She was mother to the vulnerable little girl, educating her, protecting her, sheltering her, and most of all, loving her. In this little girl’s life, nothing was taken for granted, not her safety nor her next meal. Her rock amidst the dangerous, stormy ocean that threatened to envelope her, was Julie. There was nothing Julie would not do for Molly, no hardships she would not suffer, and she often went without so that Molly could have.
To pass away without being assured of Molly’s safety, was for Julie unthinkable.
And so our concerned social workers, aware of the limited time available, focused their efforts on Julie’s case, working long hours, determined to find a solution. Our interdisciplinary team worked together intensively to ensure that Molly would be in safe hands and well looked after once Julie had passed. Once she was assured of the measures taken to secure her grandchild’s safety and security, Julie was able to let go and pass away peacefully, her spirit at last at rest. We all miss her smile, laugh and uplifting attitude, especially in Day Hospice and the IPU.