Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services, Penny Butler’s story

So close to your heart

At 74 years young, Penny Butler, armed with a winning personality and the warmest of hearts, is still looking forward, enjoying people and taking on life. It’s impossible to encapsulate Penny in a few words. But ‘courage’ would have to underpin it. Humour would be essential. And love. Everything she is, and does, revolves around love.

In 1959, at the tender age of seventeen, she moved to the US with the guarantee of work as a child minder. The family she worked for turned out to be the owners of the Boston Globe newspaper. They’ve remained in touch to this day.

“The biggest joy of my life are my four girls. Two were born in the US and two here. You couldn’t wish for better children. I’ve lovely Grandchildren and now I even have two Great Grandchildren!”

Having endured her share of life’s traumatic disappointments, it seems Penny’s only enemy today is pain – chronic, debilitating, unbearable pain – the result of nerve damage in her shoulder caused during a biopsy procedure.

“It was agonising. It’s hard for people to understand it. I imagine it’s like the pain of torture.”

Penny sought help from doctors and was in and out of hospital before being referred to Harold’s Cross for help.

“They are miracle workers here. They are so professional and expert here. The treatment is working – things are so much better for me now.”

Penny used to have a very different impression of ‘the hospice’.

“I was afraid of my living life of this place when I was young. As far as we were concerned it was ‘a hospice for the dying’. But now I know it’s anything but. It’s all about life. A building full of joy. A place of love.”

Penny is a survivor of lung cancer. Her treatment was a success but two years later the cancer returned on scar tissue arising from the surgery.

“A nurse rang me saying that my surgeon would like to see me right away. I said: Is it for lunch or dinner?”

Penny had to endure a harrowing course of chemo and radio therapy.

“I was fine in the beginning but in week five, I hit the wall. I thought I was going to die. I couldn’t walk, talk, eat or sleep. But I finished the course and thankfully, the cancer was gone.”

Penny wants everyone to know about the ‘wonderful secret of hospice care’. She describes how money is only spent on the things that really matter. For her, the hospice is a healing environment.

“The place is so wonderful. Everyone is so loving and understanding. From the nurses and doctors, to the cleaners, volunteers and others – you’d swear they had known you all their lives. They’re so close to your heart and you become close to theirs.”

Penny is a survivor. Not only has she survived Chemotherapy, she has also survived loss, betrayal and health problems. Today with the support of a loving family, great neighbours and friends, she’s set to enjoy life again – and not just survive – pain-free and as positive as ever.

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