Being at home with her family meant everything to Merrill
“Merrill was very caring and intelligent. She went to a grammar school in Neath and started training as a nurse. But then she got married, so she put her nursing career on hold. She had three girls and a few jobs in between.
"Later, she worked with the Mind mental health team in Barry. Because she was a very socially-minded person, and cared about people in the community, she did a very good job.
"Merrill passed away in January 1993. She had just turned 41 in December. She had breast cancer initially and had her breast removed. After some further treatment with chemotherapy, she was given the all clear. But about three years on, the cancer returned and this time it was in her bones. She was referred to Marie Curie by her doctor because it was terminal.
“Merrill was in the Marie Curie Hospice for a short time. But her wish was to be at home.
Hospice, a homely place to be
“When Merrill was in the Marie Curie hospice in Penarth, I visited her there twice. I thought it was a very homely place, very person-centred.
"She told me she couldn’t fault it. It was excellent. There was always someone there for her: they listened, they were just fabulous. But even though Merrill thought it was an absolutely fabulous place, she wanted to go home. So Marie Curie Nurses came to care for her there.
Home sweet home
"Merrill received support from Marie Curie Nurses for about the last six weeks of her life. That made it possible for her to be at home, with her family. And that meant everything to her.
“At home, when she was coming towards the end, the nurses made it very comfortable for her. They made sure she wasn’t in any pain. And they had humour as well. At the same time as being professional, they brought a sense of humour with them.
A dinner to remember others
“I recently organised a Dinner Down Memory Lane for Marie Curie, which raised £160. It’s the first time I’ve done fundraising on this scale for the charity. I decided to do it because it was something I could do at home, quite easily, without having to spend a lot of time trying to fundraise – because I work full-time. I socialise with my friends and we have dinner parties anyway, so it was a very easy thing to do!
“I invited six close friends, so there were eight of us altogether. My husband did all the cooking. We had three different dishes: meatballs and spaghetti, a pork and rice dish, and a chicken paprika dish. It went down very well, if the empty plates were anything to go by!
“I did it mainly for Merrill, but also for other people affected by cancer. We talked about Merrill and people who have passed away, not only through cancer. We talked about how much cancer affects each and every one of us.
“I think it’s important to raise money to help Marie Curie make sure people like Merrill have a good quality of life at the end of their life.”
If you’re inspired by Cornelia’s story, there’s still time to sign up to host your own Dinner Down Memory Lane. You can share good food and great times with family and friends, all in support of Marie Curie Nurses.