Liz and Brian: palliative carers help patients defy the odds
Elizabeth Coupe, a mother of eight and with 25 grandchildren, had everything to live for when she was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and told she had about five more years.
As she battled the disease there came a point when she had almost given up on life due to overwhelming symptoms, especially constant and severe nausea. Liz would cook dinner for partner Brian and then just cry as she couldn’t eat and was struggling to cope.
In desperation she eventually told her oncologist that if this was what her remaining years were to be like, she couldn’t go on. The doctor said she could do no more for Liz and recommended she visit Braeside Hospital’s palliative care unit.
Liz was initially admitted to stabilise her symptoms and it was clear that she was also depressed and very fearful of dying.
The specialist palliative care given to Liz was able to treat her nausea and also acknowledge and treat her depression. She also learned that the care and symptom management available through Braeside meant dying did not have to be such a fearful prospect. Before long, Liz’s zest for life had returned.
Since then the Bonnyrigg resident has visited the palliative care day hospital twice a week and, nine years after being given five years to live, Liz says she is almost back to her normal self, defying her condition.
She loves the care shown by the nurses who sit with her while she knits or paints, make her cups of hot chocolate and check up on her if she is feeling a bit unwell. And over the years, Liz has been helped by most of the palliative care team at Braeside including dietician, social worker, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, diversional therapist, massage therapist, medical staff and chaplain.
Perhaps the greatest comfort for Liz, however, is the chance to sit with other patients who visit the day hospital and to talk about how they are feeling, knowing that they are going through similar things. It’s a chance to share feelings that she even keeps from family because she doesn’t want to burden or worry them.
For Liz, palliative care is not for dying, it’s for living - for making what life you have left more enjoyable. And yes, she has lost a few friends along the way but has been comforted by the love and expert care they’ve received from Braeside, an assurance for when her time comes, whenever that might be.
As for Brian, he blesses the day that Liz went to Braeside as it is giving them a precious season of life that had nearly slipped away.