“I keep finding the word – belonging. Professor Michael Boyer and the team at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse made my friends and family feel like they belonged here – they didn’t have to go somewhere else. It was a sanctuary for us.”
Kerry looks back at the care she and her loved ones received during the difficult two months she spent being treated at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in January and February of this year. Kerry was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer in May of 2018. Under the care of Clinical Officer and Thoracic Oncologist Michael Boyer, with multiple rounds of concurrent chemotherapy and radiation at Lifehouse, her tumour disappeared from the pancreas and shrunk in the chest, much to the delight of Kerry and her family. Unfortunately, this relief would not last.
In December 2018 Kerry was hospitalised with pancreatitis and by February, her team of carers at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse were telling her family and friends to prepare for the worst. For her children, Bronte and Lachlan, the waiting room on Level 9 acted as a sanctuary as they were preparing to say good bye. “It became a gathering spot for all of Mum’s friends, girlfriends and old school friends and my brother and I. Everyone just rallied around us and so it’s a very meaningful place to us,” Bronte says.
Not long after her family were told she had but days, Kerry started to turn up for the better. “It was the music,” says Bronte, “We were constantly playing music in the room and mum just loves all that stuff. Her toes started tapping and she started dancing along and mouthing the words. She couldn’t speak or anything yet but having all of those songs that she loves playing must have helped her in some way.”
It wasn’t just this music that Kerry responded well to during her time at Lifehouse. She also found great joy in the visits from Jack, the music therapist who would come and play his guitar to her and her visitors every other day. “Jack is amazing. I could sing with him all day. We just loved it. We even gave him some homework!” Kerry says, glowing about the experiences she had at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, despite her reasons for being there. “Everyone was great. I couldn’t fault anything. The nursing staff were amazing. They helped Bronte and Lachlan so much.”
Kerry’s positivity and exuberance shines through every aspect of her, from her startling blue eyes, to the vibrant pink of her head scarf, always taking the opportunity to smile and sing, “I could sing all day, and I can’t sing for peanuts but it doesn’t matter. I just love music.”
Kerry passed away peacefully on Saturday 20 April 2019. Her family requested donations to be made to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse which were put toward Professor Michael Boyer’s research.