Mike’s Walk for Love
Within a few months after losing Mandy, Mike decided to create a team to walk in The Mary Potter Foundation’s Walk for Love.
30 people joined in the walk that day.
“We had 30 people together to make a team and do the Walk for Love. Yes – it was a way of honouring Mandy, but it was also to give our thanks to this place and raise a bit of money.” Mike told us.
With the help of the Foundation, the Hospice team cared for Mandy for over six months.
The Foundation was able to provide care for Mandy in many unexpected ways.
Here is Mandy’s story, which we hope will give you an understanding of how your support can really make a difference.
From the day Mandy was diagnosed with cancer, she never complained. Passionate about teaching, she loved people and life – and celebrated by making every occasion something extra-special with family and close friends. Most of all she loved her daughter Jacinta and her partner Mike.
Before Mandy came to the Hospice, she had been receiving treatment at Calvary. With restricted movement and her condition deteriorating, the question “what’s next?” was asked. On the oncologist’s suggestion, Mandy and her family went up the corridor to look at the Hospice. Mandy’s partner Mike told us: ‘The place looked great and we just went from there. We weren’t disappointed. I don’t know what I would have done without this place to be honest. I would have had no idea.’
Now unable to walk, Mandy loved to get out into the fresh air in her wheelchair. Mike said: ‘It was a real tonic for her to get out of the Hospice for a while and it was good for me too. But she was starting to really struggle and soon she couldn’t support herself.’ It was quickly obvious that a normal wheelchair meant she could fall out too easily. Mandy and Mike thought she might be restricted to the Hospice.
However, the Hospice team had a solution, so with the help of the Foundation a special-tilted custom wheelchair was hired for Mandy.
The new chair had a special seat belt, it tilted back further, and Mandy was better supported. It was also lighter and easier to manoeuvre – making it easier for Jacinta to take her mum out. This changed everything. The chair gave Mandy a new kind of freedom. Mike would wheel her through leafy North Adelaide streets where they’d often meet friends for coffee or lunch.
Mike said: ‘Mandy loved to catch up with her friends, and meeting at a restaurant was a nicer place to meet than at the Hospice. There was a real sense of normality about that. The chair made it all possible. She and I would often go for lunch and dinner in North Adelaide as well. We could leave the Hospice and feel normal again – for at least a little while. That meant a lot.’
This special chair enabled Mike to travel even further with Mandy. She loved the beach and the theatre, and so the Foundation arranged some special moments at both locations for Mandy and Mike. Mandy adored ABBA and so the Foundation arranged tickets to see Mamma Mia at the Festival Theatre for her and her friend.
Mandy just loved every minute.
But it was the beach where she really wanted to go.
Mike remembers: ‘The Hospice arranged everything. They were just great. And the good thing was that at Semaphore Beach they had a blue mat that went right down onto the beach, so we could get the wheelchair down through the sand easily and Mandy could go halfway down to the water. She sat for an hour just looking out at the water. Just sitting there. She didn’t want to come back – she didn’t want to leave. You could see what it meant to her. She just wanted to stay there and look at the beach, just take it all in.’
There were many other moments of joy for Mandy. She loved the occasional gin & tonic runs, and she loved to have her nails polished by the Hospice beauty therapist.
Mandy told Mike: ‘All of these things make life liveable’.
On Melbourne Cup Day, Mike made sure that Mandy was race-ready:
‘I brought in all these ‘horse’ decorations and put them all over her room. On past Melbourne Cup Days her friends would get together and celebrate, and she’d make sure she had all the right decorations for the event – everything was a dress-up day. So on Melbourne Cup Day in the Hospice, I made sure she had her fascinator and the room was decorated like she would want it to be, and we watched the race on TV.’
Just before Christmas, the Hospice music therapist came around with some carol singers and sang Christmas carols in Mandy’s room. Mandy loved Christmas carols but by then, she had really stopped talking. Suddenly Mike said Mandy started singing with the carol singers: ‘What a moment. I admit, I just lost it, I had tears. To see her start to sing like that after hardly being able to communicate…’
At Christmas, Mandy’s special wheelchair meant that she could be involved in all the celebrations with her family and close friends. Mike said: ‘We knew this would be her last Christmas, so we made sure she was at everything. On Christmas Eve, we took her in her special wheelchair to her best friend’s house. Then we went there again on Christmas Day and again on Boxing Day. She had a great time. It was very special for us all. It was essentially 3 days and 3 nights – and it was the most normal thing for her to do, as we always used to catch up with these friends for Christmas Eve and Boxing Day anyway. We wanted to keep that going for her last Christmas. All the people she most cared for were there, all her good friends, and of course Jacinta and I. We’ll never forget it.’
Mike is so grateful to everyone in the Hospice: ‘I couldn’t say a bad word about anybody there. The volunteers were amazing – they always made you feel welcome. The doctors were great, and the nurses were just spectacular. They would tell me how much they loved Mandy, and they really did. The nurses were so protective of Mandy. They went above and beyond for her - and for us too. We got to know them so well. After Mandy died, one of the young nurses came up to me and said that Mandy had been like a second mum to her. I was so choked up. That was what Mandy meant to her. Incredible.’
By honouring the life, courage and memories of your loved one at Walk for Love 2021, you will be helping to make exceptional end of life care possible, for patients and families like Mandy and Mike, who turn to Mary Potter for support each year.