Dy­ing not a ‘ta­boo sub­ject’

Rodney Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Leanne Cole­man, 46, is one of a grow­ing num­ber of younger peo­ple deal­ing with a ter­mi­nal ill­ness.

Leanne was di­ag­nosed in 2005 and has com­pleted four rounds of chemo­ther­apy but ac­cepts that even­tu­ally cancer will beat her.

She agreed to front the Hi­bis­cus Hospice ap­peal be­cause she has been in­volved with and be­lieves in the work that hospice does.

It also gives her an op­por­tu­nity to speak about the process of dy­ing and how it af­fects the liv­ing.

‘‘Death and dy­ing shouldn’t be a ta­boo sub­ject,’’ she says.

When Leanne’s fa­ther was dy­ing in 2008, he did not speak about his pas­sage, so Leanne had ‘‘no frame­work in which to deal with it, no idea of what he wanted from me or even what he wanted for his fu­neral’’.

‘‘Dad chose to die at home and even though I knew mum and dad had the full sup­port of hospice I was still re­ally anx­ious about mum car­ing for dad dur­ing those last few weeks,’’ Leanne says.

‘‘I could see the strain on mum, which af­fected me greatly. For­tu­nately, at the very end dad re­alised the amount of stress he was putting on the whole fam­ily and asked to be ad­mit­ted to hospice.’’

Leanne feels peo­ple who are dy­ing have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to help pre­pare those who will be left be­hind to con­tinue liv­ing a full and mean­ing­ful life.

‘‘When you are in the process of dy­ing it’s not about you any more,’’ she says.

‘‘You need to think about how your ill­ness af­fects your loved ones and to tell them what you do or don’t ex­pect of them. You need to think about what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.’’

Leanne has set about writ­ing her life story with the help of a hospice bi­og­ra­pher, com­piled photo al­bums and in­tends to have let­ters ready for her near­est and dear­est. She has com­pleted her will, ob­tained a burial site and or­gan­ised her fu­neral – even down to pro­duc­ing a slideshow.

‘‘Or­gan­is­ing a fu­neral is huge for the loved ones. Of­ten it’s the last ‘gift’ they can make, so they des­per­ately want to get it right. In just a mat­ter of days they have to bring it all to­gether, so I think it’s es­sen­tial that you leave some di­rec­tions about what you would like.

‘‘Help re­lieve them of the pres­sure so they have the free­dom to grieve and say their per­sonal good­byes.

‘‘ I don’t want plat­i­tudes or pity – I would sim­ply like ac­knowl­edge­ment that I am ter­mi­nally ill and I find it re­ally heart-warm­ing when peo­ple let me know I have meant some­thing to them and that I won’t be for­got­ten,’’ Leanne says.

‘‘ And it’s very com­fort­ing when I hear as­sur­ances from friends who say they will be there for me at the end and will look af­ter my hus­band Andy.

‘‘I’ve given Andy ‘ per­mis­sion’ to get on with life when the time is right. Just be­cause I die doesn’t mean his life should end.’’

The 2011 hospice ap­peal is ask­ing for do­na­tions to help set up some longer stay beds for peo­ple like Leanne who will po­ten­tially need six or seven of weeks care.

Hospice Aware­ness Week was May 16-22 but Hi­bis­cus Hospice wel­comes do­na­tions at any time.

Visit www. hchos­pice. org.nz or phone (09) 421-9180 or com­plete the ap­peal en­ve­lope in your let­ter­box to help.

Brave face: Gulf Har­bour’s Leanne Cole­man is the face of this month’s an­nual aware­ness week ap­peal for Hi­bis­cus Hospice.

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