Dame Cicely Saunders, creator of the concept of palliative care + founder of the first hospice facility once said, "You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life. We will do what we can to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die." (emphasis added)
The word "doula" takes its origin from the word "servant" or "helper" in Greek. Just as the birth doula and postpartum doula can support mothers and families throughout the perinatal and postnatal stages + processes of childbirth, death doulas or end of life (EOL) doulas can also play significant roles in the support, education + empowerment of the person and loved ones along the serious illness, death + dying, and grief + bereavement journey.
I am exceedingly privileged and grateful to have spent many hours companioning individuals and families along their end of life journey; to advocate for, support, and enhance their autonomy + quality of life, whether it was discussing changes in pain + symptom management, providing strawberry milkshakes at 3am, or singing Queen songs while giving care (all true).
When I learned about the concept of the EOL Doula, I discovered where and how this very special role overlaps with that of the Hospice Palliative Care Nurse: Nursing aside, much of the work that deeply nourishes my soul lies in the empowered relationship building, creative (+ even joyful) problem solving, and deep companionship.
When I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, however, I was abruptly tossed off the path I thought I was meant to be on. I felt so lost and alone, powerless, and so, so angry; and I was overwhelmed by the sudden deluge of my own questions--the same kinds of questions asked by the families with whom I've worked. I've had to reevaluate my own journey on this new and unknown path that I did not choose.
So I decided to live in the question. All of them.
And this declaration make to this new path my choice turned out to be one of the most important events of my life.
A "Life + Health Continuum Doula" is my response to being the kind of resource + support I would want and need for myself as I move forward along my life's journey.
This role asks you to live in two essential questions:
"What do you need right now to feel well + whole + reconciled with your Self, with your environment + with those around you? And:
"What will you need in the future + on an ongoing basis to ensure that you will live--truly live--to your very end, whenever that is?"
A Life + Health Continuum Doula as I see it, holds + supports your Wellness + Wholeness. Wherever you're at.
A "Spoonie" is a person with chronic illness who identifies with the concept of The Spoon Theory. Originally conceived by Christine Miserandino, it is a simple but poignant metaphor to describe the finite parcels of energy (or "spoons") that someone who lives with a chronic condition may possess in order to do everyday things that can often be taken for granted by people who don't live with a chronic condition.
For example, on a "12 spoon day", when you hadn't slept well the night before and wake up in 6/10 pain, even the act of getting out of bed could take up 2 spoons. Taking a shower uses another 1 spoon, and so does getting dressed--that's 4 spoons gone before having breakfast. So you become painfully aware that you need to choose the rest of your day wisely, because when your spoons are gone, they're gone.
The number of spoons a Spoonie has on any given day can be impacted by a multitude of often unpredictable factors ranging from stress, sleep, pain, fatigue, meds, meals, and so on. It is possible to "borrow" spoons from the next day in order to make up for the present day's "expenditures", knowing that you'll be operating from a "deficit" in the days ahead. Which makes each day, each activity, a process of ongoing and judicious assessment to determine the cost/benefit. It sounds exhausting, and to be honest, it can be.
Being a Spoonie keeps me acutely aware of pacing + priorities; and serves as a persistent yet gentle reminder to find balance, wellness + wholeness no matter how many spoons I've got at any moment.
Spoonies are an awesome, creative, supportive + inclusive community, and one that I am so grateful to be a member of.
oh that's a great question. Coming soon!
Here's my official unofficial CV:
I am a Registered Nurse (BSN, BCIT) in good standing. I have been in healthcare since 2005 and passionate about Hospice Palliative Care (HPC) and End of LIfe (EOL) care since 2008, first as a Home Support/Resident Care Attendant (Vancouver Community College) and then as an RN (because of the awesome nurses who mentored and encouraged me).
I have worked in settings ranging from homes (individual and care homes) to hospitals to hospices; and with human beans ranging from infants to elders. I have a post-basic nursing certificate in Gerontology (Grant MacEwan University) with certifications in Mindfulness-Based Somatic Therapy (MBST), Therapeutic Touch, Reiki, Healing Touch, and Reflexology; not to mention countless hours devoted to nursing & clinician courses, in-services, conferences, seminars--you name it--related to HPC + EOL; grief, loss + bereavement; pain, trauma, stress + the nervous system; gerontology + dementia care among others. I hold EOL Doula certification with Douglas College (2018).
I am trained through Coaching Out of the Box's curriculum (certification pending), and use that training as a volunteer health coach for Pain BC. I have been a volunteer in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside for the Portland Hotel Society.
I was a cashier at Superstore in Vancouver for 13+ years, I've served cappuccino + teriyaki at the PNE, I've (inefficiently) waited tables, and I was a Holistic Health Practitioner for bush pilots and bureaucrats in the Northwest Territories.
I studied theatre at Simon Fraser University, and collaborated in (wrote, directed, performed, stage managed) multiple amateur community productions. The most money I ever got paid for any show was $75 CAD. If not for theatre, I would not be the nurse and human bean that I am.
That’s okay. We don’t have to. While I believe in the importance of being informed, empowered, and aware of one’s own values, beliefs, thoughts, & feelings about death and dying--talking about and planning around end of life issues is only part of what I can offer. These conversations can also happen at any point in your life, whether or not you are living with a health condition.
Please check out my Services page to discover what could best fit your needs.
I am here when and if you are ready.
Accessibility is important to me, so I offer a variety of platforms in which we can connect face to face, such as Zoom, Whatsapp, Voxer, or plain old telephone. (sorry, no Facetime)
MAiD is a complex, highly sensitive, and potentially polarizing issue that warrants a great deal of consideration and preparation. It is a decision that can impact not just the person, but their loved ones and caregivers.
Most of the time one's physical, emotional, intellectual, psychosocial, and/or spiritual needs can be met with the provision of excellent hospice palliative care. And sometimes, despite excellent care, suffering is intractable. While continuous palliative sedation therapy may be an option for some, palliative sedation--like any treatment or therapy--may not be appropriate for others.
If you are considering MAiD as an option, know that there is a rigorous process of assessment to determine eligibility for receiving MAiD; furthermore, the actual procedure is conducted by a specific and highly trained MAiD healthcare team.
On the whole, it is not my place--nor my inclination--to advise you about what choices you "should" make about your own end of life. I will not tell you what to do. I can, and will, however, guide you to the information you will need to make an informed decision.
And, should you wish, I will companion you to the very end.
So this is where I stand: I stand, always and firmly, with the person whose decision it is to make.
Click here for more information about MAiD in British Columbia.
IMPORTANT: If you are having extreme difficulty living with your suffering and are considering self-harm and/or suicide, I strongly urge you to seek help here or any other crisis intervention + suicide prevention hotline in your area.
Please reach out.
We got you.
As someone living with chronic illness and on a fixed/limited income, inclusivity and accessibility are deeply important to me. People and families living with chronic conditions already have so much on their plates--physically, emotionally, socially--not to mention financially. What with the cost of meds, therapies and treatments that may or may not be covered by extended health benefits or disability benefits (if you are fortunate enough to receive them), I get that what is vital to your health + wellness may not be considered vital to “the system”. My hope is that one day this will change.
For those in need, I can offer sliding scale pricing, payment plans, and creative solutions (i.e., remote consults vs. in-person consults). Your wellness + wholeness are important to me.
I can’t be everything to everybody (much as I’d like to). That being said, the chronic pain, chronic illness (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia), cancer, and end of life communities are actually quite small, diverse, supportive + inclusive. I believe strongly that capacity building through education and empowerment inevitably lead to solid community building. If I can’t provide you with what you need for now, I will do my best to guide you to the resources (people, organizations, information) that best fit you.
Don't see your burning question here? Contact me!
Walk With Me Care
Serving Vancouver's Lower Mainland with love and compassion.
I humbly acknowledge that I live, work, play, learn + LOVE! on the unceded and traditional territory of the Coast Salish peoples.
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Wellness + Wholeness. Wherever you're at.