JIS News

One of the pioneers of Jamaica’s first hospice, Mrs. Monica Cousins, is to launch a book about the 25-year-old Consie Walters Cancer Hospice, which is located on the grounds of the St. Joseph’s Hospital, on Deanery Road, in Kingston.
The launch will take place at St. Peter and Paul Church Hall, 120 Old Hope Road, Kingston 6, on Sunday, December 6, beginning at 4:00 p.m.
Ten years in the making, the book entitled, ‘Take the Next Step … with Dignity’, outlines the emotions and anxiety surrounding the establishment of the hospice in 1985, the role it has played in enabling cancer patients to die with dignity and in peace, and how their family members endured the traumatic waiting period, through the support provided by the facility.
A trained nurse, specialising in cancer nursing, with a focus on palliative care, Mrs. Cousins, who lived in the United Kingdom, was inspired to establish the hospice upon returning to Jamaica in 1979 as a volunteer with the Jamaica Cancer Society. But it was her desire to tell the story of the courageous patients and their families that led her to write the book.
“Working at the Jamaica Cancer Society, there was such a lot of heart broken stories about cancer, that this led me eventually, to start the first hospice in 1985, with the help of some committed Jamaicans and friends,” Mrs. Cousins told JIS News in a recent interview.
The Consie Walters Cancer Hospice, catering for between six and nine patients at a time, has seen over 200 cancer patients take their last breath with dignity over the last 13 years. The facility was closed down in 1998, through lack of funds, but re-opened in 2001. “Without any funds, we had to rely on a variety of fund-raising activities to operate the facility,” she said, recalling the first $10,000 which came from the GraceKennedy Foundation.
“Setting up the hospice was a story of faith. I had no idea where I was going and this step I was taking led to the setting up of the first one for cancer patients, who were terminally ill and waiting to die, because we realised that not every one with a diagnosis of cancer was going to be cured and we had to face that fact,” Mrs. Cousins said.
Pointing out that she did not establish the hospice alone, Mrs. Cousins named several persons who were on the 12-member establishment committee, as well as Deacon Mr. Ronnie Thwaites, “who was Chairman of the St. Joseph’s Hospital Committee and the person who made it happen finally, by suggesting we use a vacant building on the hospital compound for the facility.”
Mrs. Cousins said that the 254-page book will mesmerise readers. “It is not all gloom and doom. It’s also inspiring, particularly for persons, who do not believe in themselves,” she said.
Hospice care involves the provision of medical services, and emotional and spiritual support for persons in the final stages of their terminal illness, such as cancer or heart failure, as well as helping family members to cope with the many physical and emotional challenges that come with caring for a dying loved one.

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