Lockdown was hard for everyone. But for Waipuna Hospice patient Mandy Lowe, lockdown brought with it the worst pain imaginable – being separated from her children.
With the support of our generous community, Waipuna Hospice is able to make sure that while separated from those she loves most, Mandy Lowe and all our patients are never alone. Thanks to people like you, we are there for them no matter what.
Mandy was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 in Australia where she underwent five surgeries and endless treatment plans. Eventually, Mandy couldn’t work and was running out of money, so she made the tough decision to relocate back home to New Zealand. Then, after a clean bill of health for over eight years, Mandy decided to move on with her life. To her, cancer was a thing of her past.
It wasn’t until a persistent pain in her back developed that she started to think that maybe her fight wasn’t over.
“My back started getting really sore and I thought it was because I was over-worked as I had just opened my own massage therapy clinic. I visited a fellow massage therapist and an osteopath, but no one could help me. Eventually I went to my doctor and asked for strong medication to manage the pain. What I was given didn’t even scratch the sides. It was then she said, “I think there is something we have missed; we need to get some tests done”.
Mandy recalls the trepidation of awaiting those results but says she just knew that her cancer had returned. She could feel it. When her doctor confirmed her suspicions, Mandy was in denial. She wasn’t ready for cancer to return to her life. However, the scans were conclusive, showing multiple tumours down her back and spine.
Since then, Mandy has been in hospital more than she has been at home. It has been a long and painful journey.
“Because of the pressure the tumours were putting on my back, my surgeon wanted to insert two metal rods down either side of my spine and in my neck to help support me. In the end, the spinal rods were a success, but the rods couldn’t go in my neck as the tumours had softened my vertebrae too much and they had nothing to screw into.”
“While the rods down my spine have worked, they have also caused a lot of complications. I required secondary surgery to replace the caps on the top of the rods. They had come off and were moving around my body. Then my spine started moving and began protruding from my back. Not only did it create an infection, but the pain was excruciating”.
Mandy’s cancer has also progressed. What started in her back and spine, then spread to her lungs, liver, brain, bones, pelvis, and lymphatic system. Such a complex diagnosis brought with it an unbelievable amount of pain for Mandy. But when a COVID-19 lockdown was announced, she faced a pain even worse.
“I have two beautiful children in Australia who I had to leave behind when I got really sick and couldn’t work. When a country-wide lockdown and travel ban was announced last year, and again this year, my thoughts went straight to them.
Lockdown means I can’t see my children while I go through this ordeal. Not seeing them is harder than going through cancer. I can handle plenty of physical pain, I do that every day, but being apart from my children is an emotional pain I don’t know how to handle. It is unbelievably hard to go through this without them by my side”.
While Mandy is separated from those she loves most in this world, she isn’t alone.
According to Mandy, she is forever grateful for the love and support she received not only from her parents and family scattered throughout the country but also from Waipuna Hospice who have been caring for her since 2019. From pain medication and nurse visits to physiotherapy, massage therapy, check-in phone calls, loaned wheelchairs and walkers, and companion visits from a volunteer who takes Mandy walking, Waipuna Hospice has been there every step of the way, and it’s only possible because of the generosity of our community.
Although for Mandy, the idea of hospice wasn’t a comforting thought at the start.
“Originally I thought hospice was where you go to die, so when my doctor referred me I freaked out and thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I am not ready to die yet’. Then I realised there is so much more to hospice than death.”
“Yes, they care for the end of life, but a lot of what they do is getting people on track with symptom control. They’ve been fantastic all the way through.”
“I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be here without Waipuna Hospice”.
During the COVID-19 lockdowns that care didn’t stop, and for Mandy, that meant the world.
“It has been so important to have Waipuna Hospice by my side. They’ve been so supportive during lockdown and I am so thankful to know they’re always looking out for me, and checking in to make sure I am okay”.
“To me, the team at Waipuna Hospice are like earth angels. Their care isn’t just for the pain, and it’s not just about death. It’s an essential cog in the wheel of our community.
We need Waipuna Hospice and they need us because it would be a horrible world without them in it. I know for a fact that my life, as well as countless others, wouldn’t be the same without them”.
We need your help now more than ever to ensure our ongoing care for patients like Mandy Lowe. Your donation could help us fund parts of our essential services, such as the nurse visits Mandy needs, or the medical loan equipment she requires.
Help us be there for our patients, lockdown or not, and donate today.