Vanessa was only 59 when she was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer. She is a single mother to her only child, Melissa, who is also a single mum to a young girl. It sounds like the beginning of a hopeless story of desperation and heartbreak but actually, the opposite is true.
Along with palliative care there are other support services, like psychology, that can be accessed to assist individuals and families in challenging times. It is a misconception that palliative care is reserved for old people, in fact, anyone at any age, who has exhausted medical intervention to cure illness and disease and is subsisting only with pain relief can access palliative care.
When Vanessa found herself at a medical loss and her daughter’s caring capabilities were stretched between her young family and her mother, Pauline, an aged care advocate with proven expertise and empathic guidance, stepped in to offer a helping hand. The beauty of this kind of support is that the government system is complex and patients and their carers rarely know what to ask for or where to find the help they need. Melissa was particularly grateful to have the administrative burden lifted which ultimately left her with the space to focus on supporting her mother emotionally and spiritually.
Vanessa lived in her own home in regional Victoria and it was increasingly difficult for her to feel connected when she was geographically removed from her family and medical assistance, she needed a space that would accommodate her high care needs but would also be comfortable and accessible for her daughter. There was one other extra element that would become the most important factor in finding the right place to suit Vanessa for her palliative care journey, a place that she could create and express herself artistically.
To raise funds for her own future care, Vanessa set about creating an exhibition of her paintings that would be sold from a local, supportive cafe. The money raised went directly to support her financially for the day to day costs of living. It gets better, the research to find the best facility for Vanessa that would give her end of life a quality that is unquantifiable was realised, without her having to sell her house. This caring institution have given her a new home that includes a studio space, where she continues to explore her creativity. Her mental health is dependent on her ability and access to paint, this is an opportunity to make the absolute most of her time, to leave an artistic legacy for her daughter and granddaughter to cherish forever.
- Pauline's advocacy story, as told to Nat Power
We believe in the power of stories to illuminate and educate. Through sharing our experiences of getting older and caring for those around us, we can help each other navigate the challenges we will all face at some stage in our lives.
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Main image: Yannis Papanastasopoulos