My name is Marianne Zoric and I’d like to share with you how Heart House Hospice helped me and my family through one of the most difficult periods in our lives. A year ago this December, at a routine medical appointment, the doctor noticed that my husband Andrew was looking a bit jaundiced.
He was sent for various tests and then referred to a surgeon. Then in the most matter-of-fact voice, the surgeon said, “Andrew you have stage 4 metastatic pancreatic cancer. You have months, not years left.” From that point on, it was like being on a fast-moving train that we could not get off.
All our plans for Christmas were completely upended. In our house, Christmas is a special time… we always start by first celebrating Andrew’s birthday (Dec 2018 he turned 57). Then we get our Christmas tree and decorate it and the house. I had visions of baking cookies for us and our neighbours and simply enjoying the warmth of the season. But this Christmas would be different. We had medical appointments the week before, the week of, and the week after Christmas.
It was a horrible time. I found myself grieving for my husband while we were still fighting for his life. I told myself not to grieve because there was still work to be done and my husband to support.
On December 27, 2018, Andrew went to Princess Margaret Hospital. We didn’t know what would happen that day when we set off still holding on to fragile hope. Ultimately, it turned out that he could not have chemo as we had hoped. That was devastating news. His situation was now palliative care only. I’ll never forget that drive home.
I don’t remember who referred me to Heart House Hospice but I’m so grateful. Initially, I contacted Heart House Hospice because I wanted advice on the best way to support our 17 year-old son, Nicholas. He was coping well, but I wanted to make sure he had a supportive person to talk to who wasn’t a family member or friend. So, I was really pleased to hear about the HUUG program (Help Us Understand Grief), for kids and adolescents. Nicholas had a terrific counsellor.
Four weeks after his diagnosis, Andrew passed away. It didn’t take long before I realized that I needed support too.
I learned that Heart House Hospice had programs and services to support the grieving. I joined a support group and also attended the hospice’s seminars, on the Etiquette of Grief and also the Grief 101 seminar.
I learned that grief is confusing and feels chaotic. There’s a fogginess and lethargy. And the process isn’t linear. So, it wasn’t that each new day got easier. That was a surprise.
Some days are still harder than others. The team at Heart House reassured me that what I was experiencing was normal. They offered me reading material on the grieving process which was incredibly helpful. We all cope in our own way. For me, information is vital.
From the outset, it was reassuring to talk to experts at Heart House and to know that I had someone to lean on. In April, I started to attend a support group. At first, I was puzzled about how joining other people who were themselves also in terrible pain could be helpful.
Now I know the value of being with other bereaved people. We “get” each other.
Heart House Hospice, the support group, the staff and volunteers provided comfort during the most difficult of times. Heart House has looked after both Nicholas and myself.
Having really experienced it, I now realize how much I had to learn about grief. It is a normal process that follows after the loss of someone you love. After the diagnosis, I felt fear. Fear for my husband, our son, for myself, and for our future. But I had no idea of the emotions and feelings that would follow. Grieving is a painful and confusing process.
Heart House was truly there for Nicholas and me when I needed them the most. The programs and services that Heart House Hospice provides are free for anyone. Donations to Heart House provided more than 35% of their budget last year, so they rely on the generosity of people like you and me.
Please consider making a year-end gift today. What better way to end the year, than to know that Heart House Hospice will be able continue to provide comfort and compassionate care to those hurting at this time of the year.
P.S. What this has taught me is the fragility of our existence. But, love is greater than death. So, choose hope over despair, supportive people and friends over… pretty much everything else, and giving over getting.