As we approached Bear Cottage for the first time my thoughts were predictably confused. Having decided to ‘test the water’ by staying for the weekend, I was hoping that we might have found somewhere that would help ease the pressure on all of us, at least for a little time.

 

I was hoping too that it would be somewhere that Eloise, our ten year old daughter, would find comfortable and enable her to be at ease. I also knew that ‘there was no place like home’ and that, especially for Eloise, the security of her bedroom, with all her knick knacks, toys and teddy bears around her and the familiar view through her window, (the same one she had woken up to almost unbroken every morning for ten years), was a key source of comfort.

 

It was early August 2011 and only a couple of weeks since we had to face up to the impending death of our only child. After two operations to remove a recurring GBM (glioblastoma multiforme) tumour - a particularly nasty malignant brain cancer, which in some people can double in size every 16 hours - we had found out that it had grown back again to almost 3 centimetres in diameter. We had run out of conventional options and Eloise, miraculously, all systems intact after two major brain operations, radiotherapy and chemo, had decided she had had enough and told us, as only she could, that “we had to let her go – it was her time”.

 

The road ahead was only certain in one aspect: Eloise was going to die. How we were going to get to that point was big, scary and completely unknown. We had no idea what to expect. All I could focus on was that I had promised her there would not be any more pain.

 

It took Eloise 7 weeks to die. We were told that all her organs were young and healthy and as such they never failed. At the end she was skeletal, unseeing, unable to move. It was, in truth, a terrible way to die even though she was pain-free.

 

 

But in the days and weeks after we arrived at Bear Cottage, preceding her death (we never did go home after that weekend!), Eloise adopted it as her home. She felt comfortable, secure and cared for, as did we.

 

Amongst all the anguish, despair and sleepless nights, we were immersed in love, compassion and high-quality medical care. Everyone and I mean everyone, at Bear Cottage gave of themselves to us and Eloise. The chefs, cleaners, play therapists, music therapists, nurses, doctors, administrators and volunteers.

 

Beautiful food; lovely conversations about everything and nothing, life and death; space and time to reflect; fun and games, music and light; personalised, inclusive and non-judgemental medical care; big smiles, warm embraces. Nothing was too difficult, whether it was 3am or 3pm. We were surrounded by wonderful people and we met many other families and children, all in different situations.

 

Words cannot really express what they gave, but I will forever be grateful to one and all. It was, and remains, a place that other medical institutions, both large and small, and medical professionals would do well to look too and emulate whenever and however they can. A place of comfort, care, compassion, joy and love and something else that is very special but has no name.

 

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Bear Cottage is the only children’s hospice in NSW, one of only two in Australia, and the only one in the world affiliated with a children’s hospital. Bear Cottage cares for children from across Australia, regardless of where they receive their primary care, although the majority of families that access the service are from NSW.

 

The children who visit Bear Cottage will range from newborn infants to 18 years of age; however accommodation is also available for parents, and siblings of the children staying.

Organisation Details
Sector:
Address: 
2 Fairy Bower Road, Manly NSW 2095
Contact details: 

+61 2 9976 8304

 

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