Lisaard House / Innisfree House

Rob's Story

About six months after the death of his wife, Rob Page reflected on his family’s experiences at the hospice.

My wife Heather had managed courageously with many challenges related to her cancer since it recurred in the fall of 2015, but the weeks prior to her admission to the hospice were increasingly difficult for her. Rob observed that she was really suffering and had lost her usual spark – she was bed ridden, needed help with so many things, and received food through a feeding tube. Unfortunately, she was no longer receiving much nutrition from this because anything she ate or drank did not absorb properly.
When Heather was admitted to the hospice in the winter of 2017, Rob did not expect that she would live more than a few days. Despite this, Heather had a dream. Her younger daughter Joanna was married a couple years before, but her oldest daughter Rhonda had just become engaged at Christmas. Heather wanted to live long enough to see Rhonda married too. In light of this dream, a decision was made to temporarily continue the feeding pump at hospice in order to give her the best chance possible to realize this dream. When they arrived, they marvelled at the beauty of the place.
We were truly amazed that on an industrial road in the city, you felt like you were in the middle of the country. It was like a nice bed and breakfast or a retreat somewhere, so homey, and such a beautiful surrounding, so different than a hospital. It revived her, sitting in the sunroom, watching the birds and squirrels.
Rob was amazed at the transformation that occurred in Heather.
She had a renaissance, really had some vibrancy. She walked a little, rode in the car a couple times, and even joined us for family meals in the dining room. She had some life back. It was so good for her, and good for me and her family to see her this way. Even though her life was not going to be that long, she had her spirit back. The staff members were amazing, volunteers as well. Even though she could only eat popsicles and things like that, she enjoyed having staff bring that to her. And the music therapist coming in and singing with her was fantastic, it really lifted her spirit. It’s funny, she was feeling so good she actually started to plan things here, for instance, she said “Do you think we could have a BBQ on the patio, and have some friends over?” That’s how comfortable she felt here.
Three days after she was admitted, Rhonda was married in the Sun Room.
The wedding was really special. It was a beautiful day. The nurses helped her get dressed up and then we moved to the sunroom where chairs had been set up for family and friends, and everyone fit in. The staff really enjoyed that day too, they were so excited, and they made it so wonderful. The music therapist sang a number of songs including “Edelweiss”, one of Heather’s favourites. I think other people in the hospice at the time were also enthralled with what was happening. The minister said it was one of the nicest ceremonies he’s ever done.
It was so special and she was so happy. And it was such a tough moment for me, both ends of the spectrum, such a happy day, and so sad knowing that Heather wasn’t going to live much longer. Tears of happiness and sadness all mixed together.
Not only did she make it to the wedding, she ended up living several weeks after that, she felt so comfortable here. And just before she died, the music therapist played Edelweiss once again, and even though Heather was in a comatose state at that time, she smiled when that song was played.
Rob has appreciated the support that he has received since his wife’s death. The social worker, who they have known for a few years, has been meeting with him every 4 to 6 weeks since her death. He has also joined the Family Time support group associated with the hospice, and has found it helpful that there is another man in the group about his age who also lost his wife so that they can relate to one another’s situation. He said that the facilitator “is excellent, she has a nice way of getting you to talk without forcing it.” Overall, he says that these supports have been great because “the more people I talk to about this, the better it is for me.”
While she was still alive, Heather wanted to find ways to give back to the hospice. Rob is very proud of the way his family has followed through on that wish.
We created a GoFundMe page with donations to the hospice. As well, we planned a Celebration of Life a month after her death, and over 300 people came and made donations. Finally, my daughter is a physiotherapist at a gym, and she and another physiotherapist in cooperation with an oncologist and the staff at Cambridge Memorial Hospital started a fitness program for anyone going through cancer treatments, at no charge. They’ll even pay for taxi rides.
Overall, Rob said that the experience could not have been better.
It was special. We knew Heather’s demise was happening, it wasn’t a surprise. Prior to coming here, if I could have put into words what my wife needed, or if I could have written my preferred story for how it would end, it was delivered here, a thousand percent. The staff and volunteers here should be proud of what you do: you touched our lives so deeply.