Palliative Care Week: Making holiday dreams come true

A Gold Coast getaway with lots of rollercoasters and fun was just what Tania Duncan, 47, and her family needed as a break from the everyday stress of end-stage breast cancer.

Tanias Dream 1 500A Gold Coast getaway with lots of rollercoasters and fun was just what Tania Duncan, 47, and her family needed as a break from the everyday stress of end-stage breast cancer.

The four-day holiday in March at the Treasure Island Resort for Tania Duncan along with husband Greg, daughter Alannah, 12 and son Luke, 14 was organised through HammondCare’s Dreams Project.

“The trip got us out of our routine and way from the boring stuff – the treatment, the scans, the medication and everything else we must live through – so we could focus on ourselves,” Tania said.

Dreams Project families 'pay it forward'

The Dreams Project was established in 2010 to assist, facilitate and, where appropriate, fund life-long dreams and wishes of HammondCare’s palliative care patients at Greenwich Hospital.

Fortunately, the holiday was able to happen before the COVID-19 restrictions took effect. Thrilling rides at Warner Bros. Movie World, a big splash at Wet and Wild and also plenty of time for the family to just be together, playing table tennis or eating in the resort bistro were all part of the experience.

What was even more remarkable about this holiday was that it was due to the thoughtfulness of another family who was given the same experience through the Dreams Project.

Duncans Dream 500Duncan Aldridge and his wife Fiona and children Elspeth and Hamish went to the Gold Coast in November 2017 on a similar getaway. Duncan was undergoing palliative care for stage 4 bowel cancer.

Fiona recalls it really was for them a holiday of memories. Duncan wanted theme parks and fun. Hamish celebrated his fifth birthday at Sea World during the trip.

The holiday was such a pleasure that Duncan and Fiona wanted another family facing the same kind of health challenges to have the same experience. So when Duncan passed away on March 11 last year, the family asked, in his obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald, for contributions to go the Dreams Project, instead of flowers, at his funeral service held at St Barnabas, Broadway.

“It really was an easy decision because the holiday had such a marked impact on us,” Fiona said. “It helps to know that we’re paying it forward and giving something to other people,” she said.

With the cash raised, the Dreams Project was able to organise for Tania and her family to have the same trip. Now Tania and her family have made a decision they too would like a family going through palliative care to have the same kind of escape.

“We would also like to also ‘pay it forward’ — and see that money is donated back into the Dreams Project, to insure that future wishes can be fulfilled,” Tania said.

Please help dreams come true for people facing their last days

Helping more than 160 dreams to come true

Tanias Dream 500The Dreams Project has helped more than 160 patients undergoing palliative care with HammondCare enjoy a final wish. Dreams fulfilled have included weddings, family weekends away, a night out at a favourite restaurant or something as simple as a trip to the beach. In one case last year, a dream fulfilled was learning to fly unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to help surf lifesaving clubs patrol the Northern Beaches.

A booklet commemorating 10 years of the Dreams Project is planned to be released later this year.

HammondCare Dreams Project Coordinator, Dr Jenny Broadbent, said the initiative was about joy and memories for people as they face a harrowing period in their lives.

“Making a dream come true is an amazing gift for an individual at a stressful time. It’s a positive distraction from the challenges and pain that the end of life may bring,” she said.

Dr Broadbent said the dreams requested by patients are usually about emotional connection and meaning and often have a lasting effect on the family.

For more information about HammondCare's palliative care services and activities, visit The Palliative Centre.

CAPTIONS: Top - Tania and family enjoying a rollercoast ride. Middle - The Aldridge family who enjoyed a Dreams Project holiday and chose to 'pay it forward' when husband and father Duncan died in March 2019. Bottom - Tania with daughter Alannah.