I never really know much about the patients up until I arrive at their doorstep

“I never really know much about the patients up until I arrive at their doorstep. Their life story and the dynamics of the family are like puzzles that I have to place together as soon as I can to be able to give the best service possible. I am one of the Night Nurses of the palliative care team at the Irish Cancer Society. We take care of end of life cancer patients and support them to spend their last days in the comfort of their own home. We help them manage their pain and other distressing symptoms; we also give psychological, social and spiritual support not only to the patients but their families too. I’m doing it for over two years now but so far, I haven’t had two similar cases. In the beginning, it was very challenging as it involves a lot of improvisation and requires quick response time to all sorts of situations. Some cases can be more chaotic than others but it doesn’t bother me anymore. Night Nurses always start with the last pages of the book of someone’s life. When you go into these homes you most often see a very different person compared to who they may have been 1-3-5 years ago. Cancer can change your appearance quite dramatically. So during the night, after my assessment, and after I get to know the family a little better, I would look at pictures on the walls trying to place the last pieces of the puzzle together. You would see this big strong man with his young wife and children. Someone so far from the person you see in the bed dying. The relatives would tell me stories about the things they achieved and the places they travelled… To me, it is a huge privilege to be trusted and in the presence of the family of someone who is dying. You witness thoughts and conversations that are truly honest. People’s priorities change so much when they are dying and it’s always a constant reminder for me to keep my focus on the things that are truly important in life.”
The Irish Cancer Society’s Night Nurses provide up to ten nights of free care to cancer patients at the end of life. The service is funded by money generously donated by the public every year, including on Daffodil Day, Friday, March 22. Last year Night Nurses provided over 7,000 nights of care to cancer patients across the country, enabling patients to spend those precious final days at home. Please help people affected by cancer by buying a daffodil tomorrow or by donating at www.cancer.ie/daffodilday