Joanne's Story

Joanne was a bubbly, outgoing and fun loving woman who would liven up any room that she went into. Joanne’s Mum Beth, and her close friend Tina, talked about their experience with Hospice care when Joanne came to stay at the In-Patient Unit, Somerton House.

“She loved karaoke” laughed Tina, ”her ‘go-to’ songs were Gina G, ooh ahh, just a little bit and Rose Garden. She didn’t care if she could sing or not, she just gave it everything!” That was how Joanne approached life, she didn’t want to miss a second and she put her children first. “She was a very loving, good mum and she always wanted to help people”, remembers Beth. Joanne met her husband Graeme on a blind date and fell in love, Graeme and Joanne went on to have two children, Brodie and Faye."

When their first child Brodie was born, Joanne was first diagnosed with melanoma cancer. She fought bravely and beat the disease but tragically in 2009 her husband Graeme fell sick and died. Joanne kept going, focused on her children, family and friends and in 2015 she began a relationship with Gavin and was very happy. Tragedy struck again and in 2017 Gavin was killed in a road traffic accident. Two weeks after Gavin’s death the family suffered a further trauma when Elaine, Joanne’s sister, also died. “They were more than sisters, they were really close friends”, said Beth, “it was a devastating time for Joanne and us all.“

After this terrible time, Joanne discovered a large lump in 2019. When it was investigated, she was told that, after 14 years of good health, the cancer had returned and it had spread throughout her body and into her brain. Beth remembers receiving the phone call from her daughter, “she just said, the cancer is back mum, you’ll have to move in with me”. Tina was at work when she got a text from Joanne asking if she was free, “I just had a feeling that something wasn’t right. I called immediately and she just told me that it was back and asked me to tell our friends. I was completely unprepared for that news - I just felt shattered.”

Beth moved in with Joanne to help her because the consultant had told her that Joanne only had weeks to live. There were many days Joanne was too exhausted to leave her chair but she retained her passion for life and planned a ‘cancer party’. Her event raised £7,500 for a cancer charity. She talked to her mum about her funeral plans and planned everything down to the smallest detail – including her eulogy and her sparkly red coffin!

One morning Beth wasn’t able to get Joanne to wake up, so they called an ambulance to take her to hospital. When the consultant examined Joanne, he immediately referred her for specialist palliative care at NI Hospice.

Beth spoke about coming to Hospice, “We raced here in an ambulance and when she was admitted into Hospice, the sense of relief was unbelievable. I felt like a weight had been lifted off me and I knew I didn’t have to do this without help. I really can’t explain how that felt to me. When you know your daughter is going to die, to have people that will share the care burden is priceless, it’s the one memory that stays with me - the overwhelming feeling of relief.

Even her room in Hospice was great, with her own bathroom, it meant that I could stay with Joanne and get washed without having to go home. The room had its own entrance which led out to the garden, it was lovely to have that space. The team at Hospice even gave us our own room so we could stay over, they got us coffee and food in the evening. It sounds like just little things but when you are waiting and sitting in the room, those things mean the world to a family. “

Tina remembers the different levels of care and attention that they received at Hospice, “In my work I would have been coming to Hospice as a salesperson – I never thought I would be coming into the building as a visitor. But coming into the Old Schoolhouse Café for a break from the waiting was amazing, you were immediately given space, comfort and understanding by the staff and volunteers – it was a real haven for me.”

“The care Joanne received was just amazing,” Beth commented, “I was a care assistant and I would be very critical of the standards of care but I couldn’t fault the quality of care that Joanne received. The Healthcare Assistants came and changed Joanne, making her comfortable and looking nice and pretty. Because Joanne wasn’t conscious, their efforts made all the difference to me – she looked comfortable and like herself which made the situation a little easier for us.”

“Joanne was admitted on Monday and on the Saturday the doctor said to me, don’t go too far today. I was just in the room and my husband decided to go out into the garden, the sun was shining and the garden was beautiful, it was a very peaceful moment. With the rays of the sun coming into the room, I was able to spend a quiet moment with Joanne and say my goodbyes.

"I will never forget that moment. 

"The Hospice team worked together to make life comfortable for my daughter and it allowed me to be with her. If Joanne had remained at home, I would have been washing her, turning her and changing the bedclothes, I would have had some help but that’s what my last days with Joanne would have been focused on – instead of having the time when she wasn’t in pain, was comfortable and I could simply just be with her.”

Joanne passed away on Saturday 12th October 2019.

Rest in Peace.