Dr Anna Ceguerra had many ideas for what she might do with her $100,000 savings. As a university academic it had taken her entire working life to save up this sum. She considered investing it, saving it for a rainy day or even donating it.
It was in her mother’s final months of a four-year battle with ovarian cancer that Anna knew she wanted to support Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.
Anna’s mother, Gloria Vallarta, had always been her most trusted advisor, “The donation was her idea. It was our last project, the last thing I was going to do with her,” Anna recalls with a smile. “We were at the hospital one day and Mum said ‘Why don’t we donate it to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse for palliative care?’ I said yes straight away.”
The close-knit family had moved from the supportive, holistic environment they knew well at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse to palliative care elsewhere. In her state, Gloria found it challenging to navigate the accompanying paperwork and logistics.
Anna is grateful that Gloria could die in her home as she had wanted. “Mum thought the palliative phase should be the most beautiful part of the experience, because it’s the last thing you do before you leave. You shouldn’t have to be well-off to have a good death, it needs to be better for everyone because death happens to everyone.”
This experience and Anna’s gift led to the establishment of the Gloria Vallarta Research Fellowship in Supportive Care and Integrative Oncology to better understand patients’ palliative and end of life needs.
Anna appreciates the value of research in achieving the best results. “As a family member, I want patients to have access to palliative care so that all the family has to worry about is their loved one. This research will lay the foundations for the best course in the future.”
Dr Judith Lacey was touched by Anna and Gloria’s generosity. “This project will allow us to develop early supportive care for people with advanced cancer and achieve seamless end of life care here at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. Without this research, we wouldn’t be able to move forward. I just thank Anna so much.”
Dr Diana Naehrig was appointed as the Gloria Vallarta Research Fellow in April and her work is now well underway. Reflecting on Anna’s gift, Dr Naehrig says, “It’s an incredible act of generosity to donate a sum of money that she worked so hard to save up. Anna and Gloria have helped put the spotlight on what really matters for patients and that’s priceless. It’s my responsibility to deliver my best work on this.”