‘Dying is dying. It doesn’t matter where you live’

John Joyce has been living with death for more than a decade since he was first diagnosed with cancer. Today, he is quietly helping to train the nursing staff into a quieter but more successful example of collaboration across Ireland.

After the operation and 36 grueling radiotherapy sessions, the Foxford, Co., Mayo, man felt well enough for five or six months, but then discovered he had a brain tumor that required chemotherapy that damaged his heart.

“The pumping power of my heart dropped by 15 or 16 percent,” he says.

The treatment also affected his face, and Joyce is now blind in one eye and deaf in one ear. Five years ago, he was told that the tumor was dormant and incurable. Then he began palliative care.

“I can see it in my mind’s eye – three women are silhouetted in the window and one of them is saying they are from the palliative care team. I thought ‘Okay, I’m dead’. I thought that I am gone,” he says.

Palliative care staff continued to offer support at a nursing home where Joyce stayed for four weeks and later continued to help when she stayed with her sister for six months.

“Finally he gave me the courage to go back home. With their help, guidance and inspiration, I am now alone on my own,” he told Belfast-based The Detail.

In the years that followed, Joyce has become a member of Voices4Care, an initiative of the All-Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care (AIHPC) made up of service users, carers and former carers.

video training

The cross-border institution includes hospices, healthcare organizations and universities, and it seeks to provide better care for the mentally ill and their families.

Some of Joyce’s video training sessions are used to inform new hospice staff.

“One of the nurses recently said ‘John, I’m taking an advanced nursing course and you were in a video for this’,” he says.