Joyce Harding was just 66 years old when she was diagnosed with womb cancer.
After gruelling surgery to remove her womb and cervix, she started radio and chemotherapy. "Joycie" was convinced that she had beaten it.
"She stormed through her treatment," recalled Joycie's niece, Danni.
Joycie was cancer-free and went straight back to her job accompanying the elderly and children living with disabilities on journeys. Three months later, she started to feel aches and pains in her back.
A routine check-up revealed heartbreaking news: cancer had returned to Joycie's lymph nodes. This time, the cancer was inoperable and terminal. Joycie didn't want to know how long she had left. Once again, she was determined to fight it and wasn't one to grumble.
"Because the first treatment went so well, she remained so positive," Danni remembered.
Only days later, Joycie's health took a turn for the worse. Her husband, Brian, was suddenly plunged into caring. When Brian started to get confused about which medication to give and when, the couple's family drew up a schedule on a whiteboard.
"Mum was always very active, so when she became bed-ridden, it really hurt her," Tracy revealed. "She began to feel like a burden on us. We couldn't cope with seeing her in so much pain, so we asked if Saint Francis Hospice could help."
When Joycie arrived at our Hospice, she looked around our ward at her fellow patients.
"I just want to be like them: pain-free and relaxed," she would say to her family.
"All she wanted was a good night's sleep," Tracy explained. "From that moment on, whenever she felt pain, a nurse would be at her side — easing her discomfort."
Joycie's relatives would stay overnight in her room. Tracy was taken aback by how our care extended to her entire family:
"The nurses looked after all of us — bringing fresh towels and toiletries. Mum felt safe at the Hospice and didn't want to leave. She loved it there."
For the next two weeks, Joycie's relatives went back to being her family again — rather than her carers. They enjoyed their last precious moments with her. Joycie passed away peacefully at our Hospice with our nurses and her loved ones around her. She was 68.
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