Lorraine* used to be a very active dentist, passionate about line dancing, popular amongst her colleagues and friends and well known in her community. She was cheerful, chatty and well liked by everyone! Until she was diagnosed with cancer of the ovary metastasized to the lung, peritoneum and brain, in February this year. Not wanting to be so easily beaten by the disease, Lorraine and her six siblings rallied together to make the best of her remaining days. Three of her married siblings, Lawrence*, Lucas* and Lisa* lived elsewhere. Lorraine, with three of her single siblings lived together. They were Lucia*, Lionel* and Laila*. Her main caregiver was her older sister Lucia, an ex nurse. Our nurse told me that Lorraine, although heartbroken about her diagnosis, strived to live life to the fullest, enjoying outings, singing and laughing.
I visited Lorraine in May 2018. When I arrived at the gates, it seemed like I was in the Enchanted Gardens. The grass was well kept, all the shrubs were neatly lined up, they were well pruned and were adorned with beautifully coloured flowers. Inside the house, there were many beautiful ornaments neatly arranged in the showcases, decked on the shelves and placed at strategic corners, instantly illuminating the house. It was such a pleasure to be there.
The “L” siblings were gathered at the house waiting to speak to our nurse and doctor. They asked pertinent questions about how to alleviate Lorraine’s pain and explained to us how it has become more challenging to bring Lorraine downstairs to have their meals together. Lucia felt guilty that she had nearly let Lorraine fall when she tried to bring her downstairs. The family was very concerned and looked for ways to make it better, less painful for Lorraine. I could see that they all loved their sister very much.
We went upstairs to Lorraine’s room. She was propped up and sitting on her bed full of cushions and pillows specially put around her, for her to be as comfortable as possible. She had a crew cut, so different from her photo with a head full of lush, black hair. She seemed bored and could hardly move or talk. Lucia brought Lorraine a toy xylophone and encouraged Lorraine to play a tune. She held Lorraine’s hand with the stick to hit the instrument. Our nurse knew that Lorraine’s favourite song was “Top of the World” and all of us started singing it. We were delighted when Lorraine tried to sing along with us…..“I’m on the top of the world lookin’ down on creation and the only explanation I can find, is the love that I’ve found ever since you’ve been around, your love’s put me at the top of the world.”
After examining Lorraine, our nurse discussed medications with Lucia and just before we left, we waved goodbye and Lucia asked Lorraine to smile. We were pleasantly surprised and so pleased when Lorraine gave us her brightest, cheeriest smile. It made our day.
Downstairs, the “L” siblings had coffee and biscuits for us and insisted we must have at least a sip. They thanked us profusely before we left.
I thought to myself that this is the true meaning of “Home is where the care is”. The home was so warm and welcoming. I could see how comfortable Lorraine was. Her brothers and sisters loved her to bits and cared for her so well.
Lorraine was able to hang on, to witness her favourite nephew’s wedding which was held in Singapore on 8th June 2018. She passed away very peacefully at home recently and her family is coping well.
Many of our patients’ families are the same as the “L” siblings. Thank you “L” siblings for showing us your love. I hope and pray that the families who are not ready to look after their loved ones who are dying, in the comfort of their own homes, to look to Lorraine and her family and be inspired to do the same.
*not their real names