Derry woman Ciara Ward-Jenkins describes her late mother Sheena Carlin as a “force of nature,” and a woman who was always concerned about others.
It seems, therefore, that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree as Ciara is set to embark on a gruelling coastal trek to honour her mother and the “angels” of the Foyle Hospice who cared for Sheena in her final hours.
Sheena passed away just a few weeks ago, on April 7, just 10 weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. She was 65-years-old.
For Ciara, her father and family, it was a devastating time, as have been the weeks since.
She told the ‘Journal’ how the staff of the Foyle Hospice were a “fantastic support in what was a horrible time.”
Ciara’s mum was only in the care of the Hospice for one day before she passed away. But the support and care the entire family received left its mark on Ciara, so much so that she has decided to do the ‘Mighty Hike’ on the Jurassic Coast to raise funds for the Culmore Road facility.
Sheena had been suffering from ill health for a while and found out she had cancer in January. As her health deteriorated, Ciara, who is originally from the St John’s Park area - but now lives outside Bristol - returned home.
On arrival, she met with a team of her mother’s doctors, who advised the family to explore the option of admitting her to a hospice.
“I came out and just wondered how I was going to have that conversation with my mum,” said Ciara.
“I didn’t know how to approach it - how can you approach a conversation like that? I didn’t know what to do. I walked into to the hospice and just burst into tears.”
A lady then guided Ciara through the conversation she needed to have with her mother.
“She didn’t have to do that as my mum wasn’t even in the hospice then, but she did. They were a fantastic support in what was such a horrible time.”
Ciara’s mum had to spend some time in hospital and was then admitted to the Foyle Hospice.
Ciara said: “The day she died, she was just completely at rest. It also gave my dad and I some time together. I’m an only child and we were taking it in turns to be with her at the hospital. We were just passing each other. It allowed us to sit and talk about things. Dr Anne Donnelly was amazing. She came in every few hours and gave us an update. We were spoken to all the way through and informed of what was happening, but not in a blunt way. They were preparing us all the time for what was ahead. Someone had previously said to me that if we got her into the hospice we wouldn’t believe the care she’d get. And they were right. The way they were with us that Saturday was amazing. Slowly but surely they prepared us for what was coming. Nothing was too much for them. They were incredible - they really are angels.”
Following her mother’s death, Ciara wanted to do something to help the hospice.
Two of her friends, Helen and Sharon, signed up for the ‘Mighty Hike’ to raise funds for MacMillan, so Ciara decided to take part to raise money for the Foyle Hospice.
The 22 miles trek from Weymouth to Corfe Castle on June 30 is over extremely hilly terrain. Ciara admitted she’s a bit nervous and is currently training hard for the event.
“I didn’t do hill walking before but do a fair amount of walking,” she added.
“Helen is the mum of my son’s best mate and we’re good friends, so we try to go out at least twice a week.
“Sharon lives in Glastonbury, so we don’t see her as much but we’re training hard. I wanted a bit of a challenge as I use any excuse I can to walk on the flat.
“The other thing that spurred me on to do it was that and Helen and I joined Slimming World last November. We’ve lost five and a half stone between us, so we set ourselves this challenge. I thought that if we’re going to walk anyway we might as well do this and something good can come out of this bad situation.”
Helen said she also wanted to honour her mother, who she describes as a “selfless” person who always thought of others.
“She was a force of nature. It was never about her. She was always concerned about everyone else. I hope I could even have a tenth of that.”
You can donate to Ciara’s challenge at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ciara-ward-jenkins