In November 2017, my life, along with that of my mother, sister and father, was literally upended when we learned that my father had been diagnosed with bladder cancer.
Not even six months after his diagnosis, my father was scheduled to undergo ostomy surgery at the Fleurimont hospital in Sherbrooke, and was told he would be hospitalized for a week. In reality, his health status took a turn for the worse and he was kept in the hospital for longer than expected.
Cancer and logistics
My parents live in the Mauricie region of Québec, more than an hour and half’s ride from the hospital. Add snowstorms and freezing rain to the mix, and you’ll understand that the travelling quickly proved exhausting for my mother. This was when my sister and I attempted to take on the task, only to realize this was not a viable solution. My sister then decided to stay at a hotel near the hospital to avoid all of the back-and-forth trips.
During this time, I watched my mother become a person I had never seen before, and one I didn’t recognize. She was so devastatingly worried about my father that for the first time, I saw her as vulnerable. It felt unreal to me. Before, when I lived at home, she was our rock. Strong and confident, regardless of the circumstances.
The moment a nurse spoke to her about the Quebec Cancer Foundation Lodges in the Estrie region, it was as though a ray of hope had miraculously appeared at the end of this incredibly difficult tunnel. I observed a sort of psychological and physical relief wash over my mother and by extension, over us as well!
“My mother’s physical and psychological relief was palpable…”
What she had access to was more than mere accommodations, and so much warmer and more welcoming than a hotel room
The Quebec Cancer Foundation’s accommodation services even go so far as to offer meals and transport from the lodge to the hospital; everything is planned and taken care of so that patients and their loved ones can focus on the illness, and not be bothered with the logistics.
Residents on site can enjoy a wide range of activities, including massage therapy, kinesiology, yoga for cancer patients and art therapy. My father had already reached out to someone at the Mauricie branch of the Foundation to organize for the support of health professionals (kinesiologists, massage therapists, etc.) from the moment he was sent home.
“We were impatiently awaiting his return home… ”
We were impatiently awaiting his return home… but to no avail. Three weeks after being admitted to the hospital, my father passed away from an abdominal hemorrhage, a devastating result of the complex surgery he had undergone.
The employees proved to be a game changer
My mother admitted to me that the Lodge’s employees, and particularly the receptionist, “Mme Suzanne”, were an immense comfort during this trying time. In large part due to the warm welcome and the honest and at times brutal conversations (no one at the Foundation pitter-patters around the word cancer), my mother understood that she was at the right place. No one pitied her, but everyone unfailingly asked how her husband was doing.
“In large part due to the warm welcome and the honest and at times brutal conversations […] my mother understood that she was at the right place.”
She was able to find the strength, the energy and the courage to be there for her husband every single day, and more particularly, during his final moments. She was at his bedside by 7:00 a.m., where she stayed all day. She wonders whether she would have been physically and mentally able to do this had it not been for the support of the Quebec Cancer Foundation.