christina and her mother

Christina age 4 with her Mother 

Three years ago, my mother and I were given the devastating news that her cancer had metastasized to her lungs and would soon spread to her brain. The doctor informed us that no further treatment could prolong her life; my mother’s disease was terminal. Those words were like a knife to my chest. My life as I knew it was over. That same year, my mother had grieved the death of her own mother and also lost her job. We were without a network of friends and family and struggled to support ourselves, with little money for rent or food. I worked long hours to keep us afloat, while also studying for my nursing license. I was 24 years-old and felt overwhelmed and alone. There was no time for relationships or going out with friends. It was just the two of us.

My relationship with my mother was complex, and as her cancer progressed, she became increasingly dependent on me. The pressure of constantly having to attend to all her needs was overwhelming and caused some friction between us. Thankfully, Hospice Toronto staff offered us the support of In-Home Hospice Volunteers. My mother was matched with volunteers who visited weekly to assist with groceries, laundry and light housekeeping. They brought emotional support, companionship, appointment accompaniment, as well as respite care for me. As my mother was a tough lady with high expectations, taking pride in her way of running her home, the volunteers were angels and listened to her with patience and compassion. It did not take long for a strong bond to form. This was a huge step for her and a testament to the volunteers’ kindness. My mother looked forward to her volunteers’ visits and found comfort in knowing that she would not be alone when I needed some space.
I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. As a young adult caregiver, I faced many challenges that most people my age never encounter. Hospice Toronto recognized my needs, matching me with a volunteer for one-on-one emotional support. I also joined the Young Carers Program, enabling me to cope and make lasting friendships with other young carers.
In addition to these volunteer supports, the Hospice Toronto staff provided invaluable case management services. They connected my mother to Cancer Rides, made referrals to community agencies, helped us navigate the health care system and advocated on our behalf. They also nominated us for the Royal York Hotel’s Night At The Inn program, for a stay during the Christmas holidays, plus numerous gifts. It was a memorable experience to share with my mother, one that I will cherish for a lifetime.
The day my mother died, one of her volunteers came to be with us at the hospital. This kind of support extended beyond human kindness. We shared some heart-warming stories and it meant the world to have that support during her last moments of life.
Looking back on the last three years, I have found comfort in knowing that my mother and I were able to create some lasting memories. This would not have been possible without the many supports we received from Hospice Toronto. Their staff and volunteers went above and beyond in their endeavours to support my mother and I at our most vulnerable, and for this I will be forever grateful. I hope that my story will inspire you to support this wonderful organization. Please give generously today by clicking here.