The Walker Family Story

Meet the Walker Family who turned on our Lights of Love in 2023 in memory of their Mother and Grandmother Iris Walker.

Iris Walker received a cancer diagnosis in the months leading up to her only son’s wedding and did not disclose it to anyone.  10 years later the cancer returned and Iris who lived with her only son Davy, daughter-in-law Diane and granddaughters Chloe and Lucy received care from Foyle Hospice at home from the Specialist Community Nursing Team and by the staff in the Inpatient Unit. Her family has graciously shared their experience and what that support meant to them.

Davy: “Mum had been living with dementia for a number of years when in September 2022 we started to notice some deterioration and after investigations, Mum was eventually diagnosed with bowel cancer.  Little did we know that this was not the first time she had received this diagnosis.  Before our wedding, she had been unwell and was in the hospital with what we thought was a routine appendectomy.  She told us that she had to have her appendix out but did not tell us that she had been diagnosed with cancer.  In the next ten years, we built an addition to the original house that I grew up in so that we could all be close.  As the years went on not only had she enjoyed the wedding, but she also experienced the birth of her two granddaughters Chloe aged 6 and Lucy aged 2, Mum was delighted we named Lucy Iris after her. She was a doting grandmother known for handing out a sneaky biscuit or bag of crisps.  In her eyes, her granddaughters could do no wrong and she loved being a daily part of their lives.

Throughout her life Mum loved singing in the church choir and was an avid gardener, her garden was her pride and joy.  Through the years she had joined a number of flower arranging clubs, given tours of her own garden, and participated in the flower festivals benefitting the Foyle Hospice back when it was first opened.  She was even filmed in her gardens by the BBC. Whenever someone new moved into the neighbourhood she would give them cuttings from her garden to help them start their own.  The neighbours say that half of the road was grown by cuttings from her garden!  She always had pruning shears in her car and was known to stop in front of a neighbour’s house on the way home and prune a bush or two.

Mum was not one to travel or spend a night away, she was content and happiest pottering around her home, especially in the garden. That is why we knew that when the time came she would want to be cared for at home.  As her illness progressed, Mum became anxious and did not want to be alone so we were very thankful for the support of our family friend Gillian who cared for her while we were working.  Eventually, as her pain progressed the Foyle Hospice nurses were called and she began receiving hospice care at home.  They were able to keep her symptoms under control and we were so happy to have their support. Unfortunately, following a fall at home, she was admitted to Altnagelvin Hospital where it was confirmed her cancer had spread considerably.  We were both working and had two young children and knew we could no longer provide the care she needed for her at home. I can’t tell you how relieved we were when a bed became available in Foyle Hospice.

It was clear that we were in the right place the first day we moved her in.  Our nurse Gary was so attentive, he explained everything about the care that Mum would be receiving and then let us know about all of the support available to myself, Diane and the girls. 

It was incredible. Being in Foyle Hospice allowed us to be a family again, we no longer were carers, we were given the time to hold her hand and sit with her, safe in the knowledge that all of her other needs were being expertly taken care of.  The care was nothing short of brilliant, they had everything we needed and we felt as looked after as Mum was.

We thought Mum would struggle being away from home, but after the first week, as her symptoms settled, she began to think she was at home.  The room had a magnificent view of the beautiful gardens, she was able to see all of the flowers and trees, and it was just so peaceful.  The care we all received was second to none.  The medical staff made sure that all of her needs were met, they constantly checked on her to make sure that she was comfortable and that her pain was under control.  Everyone we met was so kind and attentive.

We were able to spend as much time with her as we wanted, we were both trying to juggle working and looking after the girls so being able to use the hospice WIFI meant that we could work from her room. 

We brought the girls to see her at weekends. They were able to visit with their Nana and also spend time in the family room.  Again the staff were amazing, offering ice lollies, teas and biscuits and the girls loved watching the fish in the big tank.  Chloe said, “This is the best hotel we have ever been in!”.  That just shows you the atmosphere of the Hospice.  It is not a sad place it is calm and cheerful – not overwhelming.

We would not have wanted Mum to be anywhere but Foyle Hospice. They were a home away from home for us when we needed it the most.  When Mum died we knew that she had been free from pain and that she had the best care.

The nurses also told us about the bereavement counselling and support that is available for everyone in the family and we know that they are there if we ever need it in the future.

Our family will be forever grateful to Foyle Hospice, we know that without their support we would have struggled to provide the peaceful and dignified end that Mum (and everyone) deserves.”

Foyle Hospice would like to thank Davy, Diane and their children for sharing their experience. We are honoured that they have agreed to light our Lights of Love tree this year in memory of Iris.

Hospice care is more than end-of-life or palliative care, it offers families a support circle to help them through a devastating and challenging time. Community commitment to keeping Foyle Hospice running is the reason this family and so many families like the Walker’s have had the support and care they need in unimaginable circumstances.

Please consider donating to the Lights of Love appeal. Donations can be made here or on our Virtual Tree here or via our donate button on their Facebook page here: or by calling Fundraising: (028) 71 359 888.

You can also donate a Light of Love on our Virtual Tree or our Hospice Tree as a gift this Christmas at our shop here.

We are grateful for your continued support and together we can bring many people a peaceful, restful and happy Christmas.


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