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Bonnie Yearsley passed in April 2001 after a 7-month battle with Oesophageal Cancer. It never occurred to me that my Mum might die at just 53 and I was only 24. It was a complete shock.

Mum opted for the most aggressive treatment to give her the best chance of survival and this meant that she had high levels of chemo and radio. This made her so sick she then had to be hospitalised and during this time her pain was not under control, and it was awful to watch and I felt so helpless.

In the January, Mum tried returning to her normal life, working at a primary school. She was the principal’s ‘right hand lady’ and loved her work and it gave her purpose. Unfortunately, a few months later, the cancer had got to her liver and the prognosis was bad.

Seven days before she died, Mum moved to Mercy Hospice. I remember her getting there and saying “Jo, this is like being in heaven” because of the comfort and care she experienced. The nursing staff got her pain under control, and it gave her a peace I hadn’t seen in her for many months. She was in the best place.

“She was in the best place.”

That is something I see at Mercy time and time again: how people and their families are so comfortable, despite the circumstances. I’ve just got so much admiration for what the staff do. They’re so patient and everyone’s treated with absolute respect.

On the night Mum passed, our family was spread between Mum’s room and a fold-out couch in the family kitchen. I remember clearly that when the nurses realised Mum’s time was coming to an end in the early hours of the morning, they woke us up to be with her, which was what she would have wanted, and they stood there and supported us through her leaving.

“I’ve just got so much admiration for what the staff do. They’re so patient and everyone’s treated with absolute respect.”

The volunteering I do with the drinks trolley is a constant reminder to make the most of every day. That’s why I will continue to support and volunteer for Mercy as they do such important work to give you dignity in your last days.”

If you have ever lost a loved one, you might know the power of getting help during those final stages, and later, through your grief journey. Your community-spirited giving to Mercy Hospice helps Aucklanders like Jo and her family all year round, whatever challenges they face. Thank you.

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