Marian Mawhinney

Hi, my name is Marian Mawhinney, I’m from West Belfast. I grew up on the Falls Road with my brothers and sisters. My Mum was the best person absolutely ever. She did everything for everybody. She was only four foot six. So she was actually quite small, but quite mighty in her personality.

She was diagnosed with stage four oesophageal cancer in October 2019. And unfortunately, her diagnosis was too advanced for an operation or any type of treatment.

We were then left with this massive diagnosis to deal with. And it was quite a shock for us as a big family as a big kind of close-knit family to deal with but my Mum was a really, really loving, strong person.

The course of treatments was palliative care and symptom management for my Mum’s cancer. This involved a number of different symptom management treatments like pain management, anti-sickness management, and just overall her own wellbeing and kind of mental health as well because it was a massive burden and a massive shock to take on.

She loved her family and her friends, loved her grandkids and she would have given you the shirt off her back. She was a really decent, loving and kind Mum. My Mum had to deal with a few different issues when she was diagnosed with cancer. The first things were sickness and fatigue, lots of tiredness. These symptoms really took a toll on her other things and other issues that she experienced were low mood, and just really feeling a bit helpless because she was always used to being on the go and playing with her grandkids and doing lots of things for other people.

A daily routine for my mom before the Hospice came in, would be call down to her in the morning first thing usually around half nine and help her get ready. We’d have a wee coffee, have a bit of a chat and get my Dad sorted as well to get him his breakfast and go for his paper. And then we would usually myself and my sister Rachel would take her out for the day, just try to do something a wee bit different. I remember one time she really wanted to go to IKEA. She’d never been to IKEA before. So that was one thing we did with her.

My mum’s quality of life did improve when her palliative care treatment started. It really helped her overcome her fear of her diagnosis of cancer. And it really helped manage her symptoms physically and emotionally.

The Northern Ireland Hospice was a home away from home for my Mum. She really enjoyed it when she went to stay there for respite care. One of the things that she really enjoyed were her physical symptoms were all taken care of by the amazing medical team of doctors and nurses at the hospice and then emotionally, she loved all of the range of activities that were there, including the ukulele bands that used to come in once a week and play her favorite songs for her on request and she really enjoyed that.

I think people need to know that palliative care isn’t a scary thing. It doesn’t necessarily mean that once you’re offered it you’re going to hospice to die. It’s quite the opposite actually, it’s

about living well and making sure that everything is taken care of. My family and my Mum would have been absolutely lost without the help and support of the palliative care team at the Northern Ireland Hospice.