Our Mom turned 80 on the 21st September 2013. We were given the devastating news of her stage 4 rectal cancer on 18/07/2012. Our Mom was an amazing person. She was hit with the news of the cancer and what lie ahead in terms of chemotherapy. The chemotherapy was gruelling she had 3 day long sessions every second week but our Mom soared through it she was always so positive about getting better, she then had 32 consecutive sessions of radiation all completing by August last year.
The primary tumor remained after all the sessions she had.
Our mom went into hospital the beginning of October due to protein deficiency and swelling in her legs and since then her health spiraled. Our Mom became immobile and was basically bedridden, her heath deteriorated and she passed away 31 December 2013.
We met Dr Sue Walter through a friend who she had treated.
When we met Sue we knew that our mom had the perfect person to take care of her needs it is impossible to summarise in a few words what kind of person Dr Sue is, she is thoughtful, kind and she takes the time to do the little things that mean so much. She has a special gift of providing comfort and support when needed. She demonstrates the “heart of Palliative Oncology.”
Dr Sue provides holistic person-centered care rather than a disease-approach to care. Dr Sue listened to our Mom her fears, held her hand, listened to what she needed and provided the information and education our mom and our family needed to progress through this journey. Dr Sue is generous of her time, generous of her vast knowledge and generous of her skills to ensure our mom received the highest quality of care especially in her last days.
My Mom wanted to be at home and that’s where Sue looked after her every need especially the controlling of our Mom’s pain. Dr Sue was instrumental in making our Mom’s final days peaceful and pain free.
Dr Sue introduced us to Chris Nicolopoulos founder of the 11 Angels foundation, who without knowing our Mom or our family was prepared to financially assist with our Mom’s care through Dr Sue because she was a pensioner and although we assisted where we could , we could not financially support as much as we wanted.I remember when we met him and he relayed his journey of his wife Christine who had passed away 28 November 2013.
11 Angels agreed to assist from a financial position for medication and all other needs our Mom may have had. Chris is selfless and helped in ways that we could never ever show our gratitude to how he and 11 Angels assisted our family , a truly remarkable individual and who touched our hearts in the assistance he gave.
Dr Sue and Chris have restored our faith in humanity that there are people that care in the real world that give of themselves without expecting anything in return.
My husband was diagnosed with an arachnoid cyst (a type of brain tumour) a few years ago. We were on a hospital plan with our medical aid, so could not call on them for assistance in dealing with the condition. The surgeons could only give us a 50/50 chance for any kind of short-term success from operating so we went the non-surgical route. My husband was not able to drive because of the seizures, and also had to stop working. This put enormous pressure on me. Having exhausted our funds trying every alternative we could, we knew his journey was coming to an end. Even Hospice was not able to help us, as he had not been diagnosed with cancer. A friend who works with Doctors without Borders had just return from a mission and suggested I contact Dr .Sue Walter. I explained our situation to her and she became our lifeline over the last few months, and thanks to the kind donations of 11 Angels, we were easily able to afford her services. She visited, brought medical supplies and gave me the support I needed to cope with our situation. Dr. walter is indeed an angel sent to do this kind of work, and thanks to the generosity of 11 Angels, was able to do it without hesitation. I’m not sure what I would have done without her. Thank you.
No one understood the pain that Gerrie suffered from 2011, until March this year.
Gerrie had led a very active life. Nothing was too much for him. Sailing, hiking, cycling, running, preserving and restoring furniture, painting the house and gardening were just a few of his physical activities. He also loved music and the classics.
His introduction to what was to become the most difficult years of his life, came when he sneezed one day in Dec 2010 and felt a strange pain in his back. Gerrie was diagnosed with a Pancoast lesion in the upper left lung. He underwent numerous tests, scans, chemo, radiation a shoulder operation, a bone scan of the right femur and finally the upper lobe of his left lung was removed……………….. but the pain continued. He bore it bravely and even tried mild exercises along with his excessive amount of drugs.
Following the operation to remove the upper lobe, the cancer metastasized in his neck, shoulders and spine, the pain became unbearable but his one specialist continued to ask him where the pain was, and his reply was always the same. I had by now converted a spare room into my dispensary to assist me in keeping a check on his medications etc. Spreadsheets you name it, I did it to ensure all went smoothly.
We became regular visitors to Linksfield emergency unit. He was hospitalised, treated and finally hospitalised for 3 weeks. NOW the specialists realised his pain and said they were no longer able to help him. It was amazing how they disappeared and he was left in hospital.It was during this time that our faith in the medical profession was restored as Gerrie was referred to a neurosurgeon. This gentleman discussed options with us and listened to us and even took note of a query I had, and returned the following day to confirm a particular concern of mine. We were trying to organise the most comfortable option for Gerrie who was by now receiving a large amount of morphine both intravenously and orally.
Our dearest friends June and Gray from EMC visited Gerrie and I regularly. The conversation had changed to palliative care and a palliative doctor. June said she knew who to phone and did so immediately, only to be told by Dr Sue that she was on holiday. Never the less Sue made an appointment to see Gerrie. To move him the intravenous solution was decreased then stopped and his oral uptake became huge. The neurosurgeon arranged for his discharge and I took Gerrie to Hospice. It was such a relief to have him in a quiet environment but the pain continued to gnaw away at him. 8 days later I took home a very weak almost comatose husband.
We met Dr Sue a few days later.
There is no doubt in my mind that when you experience a trauma in your life and you are receptive to love and give love, you meet angels on earth.Dr Sue soon became Sue our angel, and she journeyed side by side with us until Gerrie passed away. She just seemed to fit in, in our home, she was relaxed and her explanations were clear yet kind and filled with empathy. She explained in her gentle way that she would be changing Gerrie’s meds and that within 5 to 6 days I should see an improvement. Suddenly one morning instead of putting his pyjamas on after his shower he asked for clothes. What a miracle.
Sue enabled us to have quality time together again at home. Gerrie went back to work, half day, driving himself there and back and his appetite increased significantly. Our son, daughter in law and grandchildren visited regularly and Gerrie played with them so happily in the garden.
Sue visited Gerrie weekly, then her visits were about 10 days apart, weekly again, until finally daily.
One day I was discussing costs with Sue as our medical aid didn’t recognise her. She told me not to worry as The 11 Angels foundation had just been created to assist with dignified palliative care. What a blessing for us that Sue could continue to treat Gerrie.
During this time we were honoured to meet Chris who spent a Sunday visiting patients with Sue. We laughed that day about the brightly coloured boots she wore, they were always colour co-ordinated with her jersey or top. They were bright pink that Sunday. There were times her fatigue was apparent but she would accept a cup of tea “with honey if you have love” and drink it whilst explaining any new developments. A gracious, knowledgeable lady who gave me a copy of her book to read. It was informative and answered all the questions I had.
Sister Tracey from Benoni Hospice became a regular visitor and she became our 2nd angel. 2 beautiful lady angels with very different personalities.
Throughout his illness Gerrie remained positive, never wanting to lose hope. He was disappointed when he realised that he was weakening again. Sue was there constantly continuing her role as palliative specialist, with love, dignity and empathy. Sister Tracey assisted with practical issues and amazing support. Her loving care and sense of humour were greatly appreciated and needed.
As Gerrie became weaker Sister Tracey introduced us to a nurse named Violet. Violet, our 3rd angel joined us on the Sunday before Gerrie’s death. It was another blessing having someone with such experience, with me 24 hours a day.
The pain still continued to plague Gerrie and his cries on being moved, were pitiful to hear. The difference now was that Sue understood his pain and she made him as comfortable as possible until he passed away. Sue made sure I knew what to do when the time came, and 1 phone call started the process. I received loving, quiet assistance constantly. All the documentation was completed and given to me at a later stage.
WHO definition of Palliative Care contains these phrases:
-Impeccable assessment and treatment of pain.
-Intends neither to hasten nor postpone death.
-Integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care.
-Will enhance quality of life and may positively influence the course of illness.
These are all attributes Sue displayed.
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Philippians 2 v 1-4
This reading from Philippians is a testimony to beautiful Dr Sue Walter and the 11 Angels Foundation.
My name is Jo-anne, my son Matty known as Matthew Quinten Bester was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer on the 20th of May 2014.
We were absolutely devastated by the news, my son’s journey from the 20th of May to the day he passed on 23rd of August 2014 was a journey I was privileged to be a part of. Dr Sue Walters and the 11 Angels foundation became part of that journey towards the end of May when Sue came into our lives and helped us understand and come to terms with the fact that this form of cancer (melanoma) was not curable. The journey that we made together with the 11 angels foundation and especially Dr Sue was tough emotional and very sad but my little man was a true warrior through all and never once did he complain of the fact that he was going to die he just accepted it as part of his life (he was very spiritual) but the most important part of his journey was that Dr Sue was there whenever we needed her. Dr Sue and the foundation came every day in the last three weeks of Matthew’s life (my little warrior). Our main aim with our Matty was that there should be no pain and if it were not for Dr Sue and her counseling (I doubt very much that my family and especially my little Matty) would not of been able to have the time that we did with no pain. My matty would ask if Dr Sue was 1second late where is Sue ( I on the other hand could would also be counting the minutes to our daily chat with Dr Sue) Dr Sue you are and were our rock through this time and your patience and love towards us became an integral part of the understanding and healing of our family. I could not of asked for a better angel to of come into our lives ( the tears are pouring as I write this letter) your dedication to your patients and patience and bonds that you form go far beyond the call of duty…. I have been so blessed and my matty so blessed to of had you in our lives during this so very very difficult and sad time in our lives. You made our Matty’s passing so much more durable (not that words describe what one goes through with the passing of a young child Matty was only 18yrs 6months old).
I cannot thank you and the foundation enough for all that you did for our family you are truly an amazing angel and we all thank you so very very much (no words can describe how you helped us from day to day)
In loving memory of our Son, Brother, Grandson, Nephew our warrior my little man
Lots of love Sue