3 February, 2020
Receiving at-home care from Harbour Hospice, Patricia Tsui’s life improved beyond measure.
Six months ago, Patricia was on oxygen full time and couldn’t walk from her bed to the door. After living with final-stage lung cancer for two and a half years, her oncologist recommended a pain pump to keep her comfortable. Every friend who came to visit left in tears because Patricia was saying goodbye.
“Look at me now. I can walk, I can breathe, I can cook dinner. I’m still alive because of Hospice.”
Hospice began supporting Patricia in July 2019 with care, support and advocacy from our community nurses, social worker, counsellor, nutritionist, massage therapist and volunteer services – all provided in Patricia’s home. A turning point came when a Hospice nurse explained in detail what all the medications were for and when to take each one to improve effectiveness and reduce side-effects. “From that point the chemo became easier,” Patricia says. “I didn’t understand what all the meds were doing and, for example, that some pills can make you constipated, which can make you nauseous.
“For four and a half months the only places I went were the clinic and hospital. I’m so grateful now that I can walk my dogs, go to the supermarket and meet with friends.”
Patricia has never been a smoker or drinker, so she was shocked as well as devastated to learn she had lung cancer in 2016. It was a particularly cruel blow for someone who left Christchurch seven years ago to escape the stress of living in an earthquake zone.
Patricia moved in with her long-time friend Annabelle, who says her life has also improved with ongoing support from Hospice. At one stage she couldn’t leave Patricia alone even for 10 minutes and relied on visitors to stay long enough for her to leave the house. Hospice organised a volunteer to be with Patricia at regular times so Annabelle could plan appointments and shopping trips.
Patricia’s priorities and goals have completely changed since becoming ill. A Hospice counsellor helped her better understand her reactions and feelings and encouraged her to think differently.
“Before this my whole life was work, but now I realise I have to enjoy life and the priority is people,” Patricia says. “I’ve got this window and I want to make the most of it. I’m trying to make myself exercise, eat well and keep positive, think of the good things and keep in touch with all my friends who love me.
“I’m unlucky I’ve got cancer but if I didn’t have cancer, I wouldn’t know what great friends I have. I have lost a few friends, but I’ve gained even more.” With all she has been through, Patricia still has some anxiety and every time she coughs, she wonders if her illness is getting worse. “I’m still trying to learn to take one day at a time and I know the Hospice nurses will make me comfortable.”
“My goal now is to fill my life with love and gratitude.”