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Lowbanks widow grateful for support

Author: Tamara Botting
18 May 2018

‘How palliative care should work,’ says By the Willow hospice executive director

"Fortunate" isn’t a word one would expect to hear from a woman who lost her husband about a year ago, but it’s how Val McDonald feels when she thinks back the support she and her husband Peter got in his last months.

The couple was living in Oakville until about six years ago, when they decided to move to Lowbanks.

“Peter was a hunter, and he wanted to live on a property that he could shoot on,” Val said.

At first, she wasn’t convinced about the move, but soon changed her mind.

“I love it here; I absolutely love it,” she said.

Everything was going well until Peter developed a cough that wouldn’t go away.

“I thought he had pneumonia at first,” Val said. He went to see his doctor in October 2016, and then after a series of tests and visits to specialists, he was finally given a diagnosis on Dec. 5, 2016: it was small cell lung cancer.

“He started chemo on Dec. 7,” Val said. “It was quite a large mass. It did shrink down but … it almost immediately grew back and metastasized. It went to his liver and into his bones.”

They went to the Haldimand War Memorial Hospital in Dunnville for an MRI, but the doctor told them there wasn’t really anything that could be done.

“It was quite devastating. Peter was a strong, strong person,” Val said.

Immediately, family came alongside them; Peter was the youngest of 14 siblings. One of his brothers, Teddy, and his wife, Diana, brought a trailer to the house and lived in the driveway for a month to help Val care for Peter.

Teddy also went to the Haldimand War Memorial Hospital to ask for help.

“He walked in one day crying, and the next day, everything arrived,” Val said. Not only were physical needs met, like oxygen supplies, but also emotional and informational support from people like Kathryn Stengel, executive director of By the Willow East Haldimand Hospice, and Lisa Hannigan, also a member of Peter’s palliative care team.

“We were so fortunate,” Val said. “We had the greatest support.” Read more...

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