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In A Word…Hospice – Irish Times article

patsy-mcgarry-editedArticle by Patsy McGarry

You might say we are in recovery. Sort of. Optimism ruled most of us for the eight months that passed between my brother Pearse’s diagnosis with lung cancer and his death on July 20th last. Family members with medical knowledge were always less so. Those of us who were informed grew to cherish our ignorance as time passed, even as the evidence ground out its own grim truth. It was not so much denial as a gamble on hope.

Pearse was just 60 and the first of us siblings to die. In a large family blessed with health, his cancer came so out of left field. We had never known serious illness, none of us. Where we, his wife, children and grandchildren, our mother have been concerned, it caught all our hearts off guard and blew them open – to paraphrase Seamus Heaney.

But we remain so, so grateful. To consultant Sylvia Blascova, the oncology team and nursing staff at Galway University hospital, to consultant Ollie McAnena and nurse Terry Gallagher there too; to Dr Cathryn Bogan consultant in palliative medicine at Sligo University hospital where Pearse died, and the astounding nursing staff at its oncology unit.

They have a room there where family members can stay as we did over those last long days and nights of Pearse’s dying.

I do not know how the people at either hospital can remain so extraordinarily consistent in their compassion as they deal with death, the dying and the soon-to-be-bereaved day in, day out. It takes special and rare human beings. For they are all of that.

Next Thursday all can assist them and people like them by taking part in Ireland’s biggest coffee morning to raise funds for hospice services throughout the country.

Organised by the Irish Hospice Foundation, at or 01-679 3188, all proceeds go to a hospice service in your area. It stays local – but you might remember the oncology unit in Galway and Shout, the Sligo Hospital Oncology Unit Trust.

It is a vain hope that none of us will ever need a hospice service. Statistics indicate otherwise.Regardless, these wonderful people deserve all the support we can give them in making life less painful for the dying and the soon-to-be-at-a-loss. Hospice from medieval French hospice, itself from the Latinhospitium, meaning “guest house, hospitality”. [email protected]