'I want to tell people that there is nothing to be afraid of about going to a hospice'
Irish Lives:Maureen MacMahon still goes out with the girls from work and has a good time
“I thought hospices were only for people who were dying,” says Maureen MacMahon, from Clondalkin in Dublin. She is sitting laughing in the day centre at Our Lady’s Hospice Harold’s Cross, Dublin, wondering whether she will get her nails done today or not.
Three years ago, her homecare help team arranged for someone from the hospice to visit her. “I told my sister, ‘get rid of them from the door. I’m not dying. Let them go out to people who need them’. But my sister said, ‘we should see what they have to say’.”
MacMahon has breast cancer and bone cancer. She was working as a special needs assistant when diagnosed. She loved the job. “The last day I worked was November 22nd, 2009. The biggest shock about my diagnosis was knowing I would never be able to work again. But I’m a person who believes in getting on with things. I still go out with the girls from work and we still have a great time every time.”
Because the bone cancer is in her legs, she uses a wheelchair to prevent any damage from a possible fall. “Don’t think I don’t have a brain because I’m in a wheelchair!”
She also uses a breathing apparatus. She has been attending the hospice day centre one day a week for almost three years now. Her sister encouraged her to make the first visit.
“Before I came the first day, I was saying if it’s people sitting around crying and talking about being sick, I can’t deal with it. I’m not sick. I have a condition,” she states firmly.
The first thing that happened when MacMahon came was morning tea with the other day centre visitors in a bright sunny room where the communal chatter was of anything except illness.
This happens every day.
“Then I had the most beautiful massage in my back and shoulders. It was so soothing. If you wanted to talk to counsellors, you could. If you want to do physio, you could. They gave me the choice. I can still make choices about my life when I’m here and that’s what I like.”
She decided to return.
“When I came here first, I was coming to please other people. Now I come to please myself. I look forward to coming on a Wednesday. It’s my day out. My daughter is my carer and so it is her day off too.”