Palliative care video launched
Josephine Graham was diagnosed with cancer for the second time two years ago. She is now a regular day patient at Our Lady’s Hospice in Harold’s Cross.
“I’m still on my journey,” she declared cheerfully yesterday at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, at the launch of an information video about palliative care.
The 30-minute video, which was launched by broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan, is a joint initiative between Our Lady’s Hospice and St James Hospital.
It can be viewed on both their websites, and is also available in DVD form. Graham is one of the participants featured in the video. “It will give people information,” she explained. “When you are diagnosed in the beginning, you don’t even know what questions to ask.”
In addition to contributions from broadcasters O’Callaghan, Gay Byrne and Charlie Bird, the video features patients such as Graham, talking clearly and openly about their experience of receiving palliative care.
It also features several people from the care teams at James’ and Our Lady’s Hospice. They cover topics that include communication, fears of becoming addicted to morphine, coping with the shock of diagnosis, and spiritual and physical care.
One of the team members from James’ is Cathriona Corcoran, a clinical nurse specialist.
“There is a massive taboo around palliative care,” she says. “There is an old myth that it is about end-of-life care. It no longer is. It is about living until you die. The phrase I hate the most is, ‘There’s nothing else we can do for you’, because it is never true.
People are now living longer after diagnosis, and proper palliative care can reduce fear and distress for both the person, and their family. It takes the fear out of dying. It is true that some of the people we see can die within 24 hours, but we also see people who live for on for months and years.”
Also featured on the video are sisters Nora Gahan and May O’Brien, whose sister Helen Lalor died of bowel cancer aged 59 in 2010. They were both at the Royal Hospital yesterday. “When Helen was diagnosed in 2008, it was our first experience of a palliative diagnosis,” Gahan says.
“I had thought it meant someone was close to death,” O’Brien admits. Their sister lived for two more years after her diagnosis, and the palliative care unit became “a second home to us,” as O’Brien says. “It brought all of our family together. I found it very hard to know that she was going to die, but they were always there to support us. We were never fobbed off when we asked questions.”
The sisters took part in the video because they hope that others who face into a similar experience in the future will be reassured by understanding the scope of support available, not just for the person with the diagnosis, but also for their families. “There is help out there,” O’Brien stresses.