Mirna, of course, is not her real name, but I have chosen it because the name means “a calm and tender person”.
Mirna was admitted to our Respite Unit here at the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust a few months ago. At the time, she was breathless and in extreme pain with a diagnosis of both HIV and cervical cancer. The HIV was well under control and had been so since Mirna has started ARV treatment in 2012.
Mirna was then diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016. Yet when she was admitted to our Unit she was still awaiting the results of a scan to proceed for chemotherapy. On examination, the tumour in her abdomen was very large and her pain control was poor. Despite her diagnosis and obvious discomfort, she had a gentle calmness about her and still managed a smile.
Mirna’s son brought her in and he too was a gentle soul who very obviously loved his mother very much. He stayed by her side and visited every day, the bond between mother and son was very obvious.
We quickly managed to get her pain under control and her tender nature came to the fore, she never complained and always smiled when seeing anyone.
So why would this lady touch me so deeply? After all I work at the coalface of this epidemic and have done so for over thirty years. I think that it is the fact that Mirna was the same age as me and her son reminded me of my own son.
Mirna passed away after being with us for six days, she never did get the chemo. Hers is a story that the team here at HACT have experienced too many times since the oncology crisis first hit KwaZulu-Natal - people with treatable cancer dying too soon.
We called Mirna’s son when we knew the time was drawing close, he came and sat quietly with his Mom, his grief touching us all. He held her hand, he spoke gently to her and when she was gone he hugged her and wept…there was not a dry eye in the Unit that day.
How many more sons and daughters must lose their mothers before this crisis is over?
Mirna, rest in peace my friend…
Story written by: Julie Hornby, HACT’s Nursing Services Manager.
Photo Credit: Rose Corbett
HACT is a proud member of the Hospice & Palliative Care Association of South Africa (HPCA) Membership No: KZN/1419