Patients & Families - Read their stories
Marion and John Hislop
By Lyn Humphries - September 2019
Photo of Marion and John celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary.
Two and a half years ago, well known Taranaki couple Marion and John Hislop headed off to their GP for their annual warrant of fitness medical check. The couple fitted it in as they were preparing to head off to Fiji for a two week holiday. But when the tests came back, their GP spotted Marion's blood test had thrown up a red flag which required further scrutiny.
"We always had out annual medical in July to make sure we were healthy and there were no underlying things that needed looking at," John, the former Okato pharmacist, recalls. "But the GP was worried about Marion's bloods."
The GP told the couple, John now aged 76, and Marion 72, that they should go ahead and enjoy their holiday in the sun. The more in-depth investigations could await their return.
Once home, the scan that followed revealed one kidney was five times the size of the other. Marion was diagnosed with renal cancer. The medical team was amazed she had no symptoms - and no pain.
An operation followed which embolized (killed) the diseased kidney. Fortunately, Marion's other kidney was still operating adequately. A tough regime of three months' chemotherapy followed.
"It was a very aggressive chemical." John says.
"I really was sick, but they decided to hit it hard to start with," Marion says. "I was a big woman but I lost weight, was vomiting and wasn't eating. I went down to 37 kgs. But it did its job and my appetite is back."
Marion, a former dental nurse, and John can't speak highly enough of the medical and support service they are receiving from hospice and the community.
Marion is now housebound but they have found hospice nurses only a phone call away.
"Marion had a couple of falls but within five minutes two hospice nurses arrived and got the ambulance to take her up to the hospital," John says.
"We call them Joy Germs," Marion says with a smile. "They are very supportive. They come and put dressings on my tail bone and when I was constipated they dealt with that very well."
Because she is often sitting in the lounge so she can look out over the valley and up to Crown Hill from their Ngamotu Road, New Plymouth, home, hospice has provided her with a super-soft Neoprene cushion which she loves. It is one of several items of equipment which makes life easier.
Recently she was helped to travel to the hospice for a fortnight of respite care and a general review. "Four doctors got together and reduced my medication. That was a big thing." While there, a nutritionist came to advise her on food.
"They are wonderful up there. They are very kind to me."
As Marion's primary caregiver, John agrees. "I value and appreciate the service they provide. The hospice nurses seem to be available whenever we need them."
As a long-standing Okato Lions member John is gratified that the group's fund-raising efforts over the years have supported the hospice by purchasing medical beds.
Another hospice service he strongly recommends to all caregivers is the series of hour-long free seminars which outline the many hospice and community services available to families.
He advises carers not to wait but to go to the seminars as soon as the diagnosis is made. He was sad that during the seminars he attended, two of the patients died before their carer was able to take full advantage of the invaluable information they contain along with the knowledge of all the practical equipment on offer.
John comes in for his own acclaim. Marion says she is deeply appreciative of all her husband does for her. "I'm very lucky. He is very good to me."
By Lyn Humphrys - December 2017
Gordon Goodman is still blown away with - at age 67 - experiencing the thrill of his first helicopter ride.
"I'd never had one before so it was beautiful. We left the airport and headed along the coast and up around the mountain". The pilot of the 12 seater, whose day job is usually taking workers out to the offshore rigs, then flew over Gordon's hometown of Waitara and they were able to pinpoint his home and other familiar local spots. The helicopter trip was something he had always wanted to do and when he shared this with hospice staff, it was arranged for him - all for nothing. "It was about a month ago" Gordon recalls in his spacious and well-appointed room in Te Rangimarie. "Heather organised the whole thing"
Gordon has been a regular at the Hospice Day Programme, run by Heather Ternouth, on Wednesdays and Fridays. "Heather gets in different speakers for us. It's really nice, excellent. She does a fantastic job for us".
The South African born retired plumber is astounded at how beautiful his surroundings are in Room 6 and with his carers. "The people in here are all fantastic. It's unbelievable, just look at this room".
Gordon's wife Anne (his second wife, to whom he has been married for 18 years) has also been able to take advantage of hospice's holistic services. She joined the support group and they meet regularly. Anne also appreciates getting a break when Gordon is at Day Programme events and while he is having respite care and treatment within Te Rangimarie.
He was diagnosed with myeloma amyloid, a blood cancer, six years ago. It has now attacked his heart muscle, but doctors can't tell him how long he has got.
"I'll be 67 in December but I won't make 68" he reckons. But Gordon says he does not fear dying after the death of one of his two sons in South Africa in a car crash. "That hit me hard. Since then it has never worried me. I know I'm going to die". He has been able to speak openly with his nearest and dearest about the end. "They have accepted what's happened. But a lot of people don't think of dying" he says.
Gordon emigrated to New Zealand at age 44 after being disgusted with the South African justice system. The drunk driver whose vehicle ran into his son's car killing him and two others was given 18 months' jail time. "I thought if this is what this country is like, I'm leaving". At 44 he was deemed too old to enter Australia but was accepted into New Zealand. "It was the best thing I ever did". He feels he has had a good life. His job as a plumber has enabled him to see much of New Zealand and travel the world. Ironically, he was in charge of the plumbing work for the new building at base hospital.
It was Gordon's GP who suggested he sign up with Hospice about seven months back. Gordon said a lot of people with terminal illnesses have the wrong conception of Hospice and what it can do for them. "Everyone thinks they are just going to hospice to die, that they put you in a box and take you out". But his experience has been far from that. "When I first came here I was shocked at what was here. It's like a five star hotel. I started Day Programme and it was fantastic. The staff that look after me are unbelievable. This is where you should be" his advise is to anyone in the same position. He has brought friends and his adult children to see what is available "and they couldn't believe what they saw".
At his Waitara home hospice staff have given him a lazyboy and a special bed. "I can call them any time and they will come and visit me. It's been unbelievable and it's all free. When I think of what it would have been like if I had still be in South Africa, I don't know what I would have done. I would have had to sell my house and be in a home for the poor".
Hospice Taranaki wishes to thank HNZ for the helicopter ride for Gordon.
Gwen Holloway - Having the conversation that counts
by Lyn Humphrys - April 2017
Gwen Holloway has no idea how long she still has to live but is content that she has stored important information for her family and carers for when the time comes.
In her fridge she has placed a small cylinder which has two copies of her end of life plan for her loved ones and caregivers so no one is left second guessing what her wishes may be.
Gwen has metastatic cancer in her bones and lungs as a result of breast cancer 11 years ago. She says during one of her stays in Te Rangimarie her nurse Sharon suggested she talk to her family and write down her decisions on her end of life care and for any emergencies that may occur. Sharon then helped her write down her responses to a series of questions provided on an Advance Care Planning and Plan of Care for Emergencies form.
She's now content the discussions have been held with her only daughter, Janet Pepperell, and husband, Roy Holloway, now 91 years old. The couple have been together 68 years and moved to New Zealand a few years after the end of World War II when New Zealand was crying out for skilled workers.
"I agree you've got to come out and be honest about what you want", Gwen says. "I feel personally that I'm now 88 years old and I've had a good innings and I have a lovely family including two beautiful great grandchildren. A lot of people can't say that."
"If it comes to that I don't want to be revived. It's kinder to everyone. And if possible I would prefer to die at home and go out with a lot of decency".
Janet, who has moved into her parents' Waitara home to help her mum and dad is grateful the hospice prompted the family chat about her mum's end of life wishes. The conversation was all the more important because the extended family, including the grandchildren, have never experienced the death of a family member, Janet says.
"We have never had death hit us in the face yet. We hadn't worked anything out. We all need to organise these things and answer questions, such as whether to want to be cremated or buried", Janet says.
Her mother had also told her important day to day information about her dad's needs.
"If Mum goes first I would have had no idea about things like what food he likes".
More information is available on the website advancecareplanning.org.nz. The website explains that advance care planning gives everyone a chance to say what's important to them.
"It helps people understand what the future may hold and to say what treatment they would and would not want. It helps people, their families and their healthcare teams plan for future and end of life care. This makes it much easier for families and healthcare providers to know what the person would want - particularly if they can no longer speak for themselves" the website says.
A national awareness day for Advance Care Planning called Conversations that Count was held on April 5.
Louise & Anton Boyder
By Lyn Humphys - December 2016
When Anton Boyder was finally diagnosed with lung cancer on October 28 last year the news was bad. The cancer was by then Stage 4 and spreading.
His wife, Louise Boyder, and their children, Sammi (18) and Anthony (17), are now coming to terms with his sudden loss and the trauma they all went through. They were not to know they were to have eight short months before his death. Anton, who worked for Tegel, was just 46. The big man loved life and adored his family.
Helping them through their ordeal over the last four months were the hospice staff. They constantly visited Anton when he was hospitalised with a broken right hip and crumbling left thigh and a painful jaw as the cancer spread to his brain.
"He went through hell. But he never complained once. He tried to be his jolly self all the way through. He was always asking for double helpings of the homemade hospice soup!"
"Every day the hospice staff came to see him in hospital. They were great. Fantastic. They were there from the beginning to the end" Louise says. She credits Dr Tom Bull and nurse Bronwyn for organising medical staff to tell her the end was not far off. At the time the estimate was 12 months. "If it wasn't for them we would still be in limbo".
And she will always be grateful to Dr Bull who had earlier pushed for Anton to have a hip replacement. For a short time it took away all the pain, she says, and he could walk again. Dr Kay Abraham, who works closely with hospice, was effective in getting him onto a trial drug at the cost of $20,000 a month. But it was too late.
As the end approached, hospice nurse Bronwyn arranged for him to return home in an ambulance. Another nurse, Letiesha, did an awesome job organising a hospice bed and all the equipment he needed at home. Louise says "Any time I called them they would send one of the nurses. We had home visits and regular phone calls".
"They answered all my questions and were always up front and honest. They were also great with the kids. The hospice nurses were so patient. There were lots of people coming to see Anton but they just quietly worked through the people coming and going. I can't fault them. Even the after care was great". Anton died at home on June 25. Louise is thankful that the nurses who were with him at the end helped her with what she then needed to do, ringing the funeral director and the doctor.
In gratitude, Louise has since donated Anton's wheelchair to hospice.
Dorothy Isaac - Full of Praise
by Lyn Humphrys - March 2016
Bell Block retiree Dorothy Isaac was stunned when her doctor told her at the end of last year that he had referred her to Hospice. Her condition was terminal. But a few months later she is full of praise for what the service has done for her and her husband Glan.
"The doctor said there's nothing more we can do for you and we're referring you to hospice. I was shocked."
Ironically Dorothy, who has uterine cancer, had always believed in what Hospice Taranaki stood for and like many in the community regularly supported the service with donations. That belief has now become a reality.
"We've always donated to Hospice and have been receiving the newsletters for a long time. It's a good cause. Now I've had the experience myself you can see what they do for people."
She's had a few bad patches, but a recent increase in her painkillers has meant she's feeling pretty good at present.
"I'm cooking a couple of nights at the moment, and doing a few little jobs. I can't be mollycoddled. But I'm not overdoing it. I am being careful. And they are keeping a surreptitious watch on Glan". Dorothy smiles.
"The service we've had makes me feel quite humble" Glan says.
A short time back when she told the nurses she had hurt herself getting out of her bed, a medical bed arrived the same day. "They had the electric bed up here just like that. They are on the end of the phone for you 24/7".
Glan has his king single next to her in the bedroom "so at least we're in the same room", she says.
Taking pride of place in the lounge is the comfy big chair with its specialist pillow which also arrived from hospice. The chair is a plug-in electric model and she's become expert at moving it through its paces. It helps her to stand up and she can also lie it back and enjoy a snooze.
Hospice has provided her with other aids. There are not one but two walkers, one to give support around the house and the other which folds up and goes in the car. She also has a wheelchair.
The community nurses who come to visit are all on a first name basis and she loves the consistently high standard of support she receives from them. "They give brilliant service".
She has recently joined the hospice Day Programme on Wednesdays and Fridays, located at Te Rangimarie in New Plymouth. "I'm told to get plenty of rest when she is at hospice for the Day Programme" 86 year old Glan says.
The couple are astounded the volunteer drivers think nothing of coming all the way out to Bell Block to collect her and take her to and from the hospice so she can attend. They have interesting speakers and delicious meals are provided. Dorothy was looking forward to the visit from Americarna drivers and their magnificent machines. Little did she know she was to meet and have her photo taken with Greg Murphy.
Her daughter, a pharmacist in Whangarei, rings her every day to check on how she is. Dorothy is looking forward to her visit shortly.
Gardening is now off the agenda along with her beloved bowls. "My biggest disappointment is I've got no bowls. I played 28 years and enjoyed every minute of it. It's two years since I haven't been able to do it".
She collected her share of trophies over the years as a member of the New Plymouth Bowling Club and she takes great pleasure in the knowledge that as a selector she helped pick a top performing interclub team. She was also a rep indoor bowls player. She was the one who introduced Glan to bowls and he laughs describing the good times he has at the Fitzroy Club. "Now you can't keep him away" she jokes.
The cancer came out of the blue.
"I had never been in hospital until I went in for my hysterectomy. I did have my tonsils out when I was young. I am 76 now, so that's not too bad. I've had a good life. You have to take the good with the bad".
Thank you Dorothy and Glan Isaac for sharing your story with us all.