Sr. Lily O’Byrne
Sr. Lily O’Byrne is a Palliative Care Nurse who works with the Irish Cancer Society. She works with the terminally ill in their own homes in their final stage of life or when the patient is actively dying. The Irish Cancer Society provides a Nurse free of charge for ten nights to the families of these patients. The salary of the Palliative Care Nurse is solely funded by the Daffodil Day collection which is so generously supported in March every year.
Louise Keogh, 31, and her sister Elaine, 28, from Clonakilty, Co Cork were devastated when their beloved Mum, Esther 52, passed away from cancer in March 2007. However, the sisters’ worst nightmare came true when their Dad, John also 52, was diagnosed with terminal cancer the following year.
“On March 1st, 2007, our Mum passed away from cancer of the bile duct. She had received treatment two years previously and had been given the all clear, but she passed away within six weeks of being told that her cancer had returned. When she went to hospital, we had no idea that she would never return home.
After Mum’s death, my sister and I moved back home to be with my Dad. We did our best to get each other through this devastating time. However, we had no idea of what was to come.
Coming up to Mum’s first anniversary we noticed that Dad had lost a lot of weight and wasn’t looking well. We put this down to grief and Mum’s first anniversary, but we convinced him to go to the doctor to get himself checked out – just to be on the safe side.
Four days after Mum’s anniversary mass, Dad was told he had terminal cancer of the oesophagus. There are no words to describe how we felt. We were in complete and utter shock. We couldn’t believe this was happening. Again, like Mum, Dad was only 52 years of age. It was a nightmare, but we were all wide awake. We were told the tumour was inoperable, aggressive and in its advanced stage. Any treatment would just make Dad more uncomfortable, which none of us wanted.
Between us, Elaine and I decided that the best place for Dad was home. We wanted to take care of him, an opportunity we never had with our Mum. Thankfully, we both had extremely understanding employers.
In the weeks that followed Dad’s diagnosis, he deteriorated rapidly. Throughout this time we had help from the Palliative Care Team in Skibbereen, and Dad’s best friend’s wife who is a Nurse was also a great source of help. However, night times became very hard. Neither of us could sleep and we would jump out of bed at the slightest sound coming from Dad’s room. Dad was in a lot of discomfort and it was a very distressing time for all of us.
And then an angel came into our lives in the form of Sr. Lily O’Byrne, the Irish Cancer Society Night Nurse. For the last 10 days of Dad’s life, Sr. Lily was our saviour. It was a relief beyond words to my sister and me to know that Dad was in such good, capable hands and getting the best care possible.
When Sr. Lily first arrived, Dad was very talkative and you would hear them both drinking tea and laughing late into the night. Each night, Sr. Lily would arrive, and things would somehow, once again, become manageable. Sr. Lily, seamlessly, became part of our family and part of our routine.
On the morning of April 17th, 2008, we know that Dad’s passing was imminent. As far as deaths go, it was a good one. Dad spent his final days in his own home surrounded by those who loved him. It was a privilege and an honour that we wished we could have done for our Mum. But we also knew that it would not have been possible without Sr. Lily. She gave us the rest and the strength that we needed to look after Dad during the last days of his life.
We could not put a price on the service Sr. Lily provided because it was invaluable. Yet, it was one that was provided to us freely. We will be eternally grateful to Sr. Lily, our Irish Cancer Society Night Nurse”.
Louise and Elaine Keogh