It’s easy to believe Dolores Craig when she says she’s always been a glass-half-full person.
As she chats in her room in Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services in Harold’s Cross, her conversation is punctuated with references to how lucky or how fortunate she’s been over the years.
She’s lucky to have had three mothers; the woman who gave birth to her, the mother who adopted her as a baby, and the mother who married her father after her ‘second’ mother died when Dolores was just five years old.
She was ‘lucky’ to have six grandparents - who she ‘rented’ out to school friends by allowing them go with her (in exchange for a penny or a sweet) on visits to the grannies and granddads who were always happy to see her.
She’s had jobs that she’s loved, working in the Wicklow hotel in Dublin during its ‘old-world chic’ heyday, the Berni Inn, and later minding children for families to whom she became very close.
And of course there’s her own family, at the centre of which is a much-loved son and daughter who, Dolores says, have done so much for her particularly since she was diagnosed with cancer.
Then there’s the “wonderful” staff she’s encountered during her sometimes-lengthy stays in St James’s hospital.
“Every single human being that I met there was lovely. They work so hard, and I saw them stressed, but they made me feel like I was the only one,” says Dolores.
“I used to be worried about them wasting their resources on me at 73, there were so many young people, including young mothers who needed treatment. But they gave me the same care, and were so kind.”
Dolores was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after being admitted to hospital for treatment for another condition almost seven years ago.
“I got a pain in my chest and had to go to hospital. It was gallstones but in the blood tests they found cancer. I had no symptoms at all but I seemed to go downhill very quickly.”
She was “quite ill” for a time then, but after surgery and chemotherapy, Dolores was cancer free for 20 months. The cancer came back and she had more surgery and treatment - and periods of relatively good health in the years since then.
This time, when cancer was again diagnosed, Dolores decided she wanted no more treatment and, after a spell back in St James’s, came into the hospice on 29 December.
“I had always heard that the hospice was a lovely place, the staff in the hospital were saying that I would be better off here, and they were 100 per cent right,” she says.
“The staff here couldn’t be any better. I think they all have vocations.”
Dolores smiles when she recalls this isn’t her first time in the hospice.
“When I was six, I was in a play here, it was called ‘Home James, don’t spare the horses’. I still remember it.”
The difference between hospital and hospice, she says, is that in hospital, the aim is to make the patient better and move them on while in the hospice, it’s all about making them comfortable.
“There is no rush, it’s all very calm.”
Dolores speaks in a matter-of-fact way about no longer being able to eat (because of a medical complication) and the fact that she’ll probably never eat again.
“I’m not hungry, the body is a wonderful machine, and I don’t mind seeing people eating. I’m reading every food magazine going and I never did that at home,” she laughs.
Dolores sips drinks and homemade ice pops which the nurses make for her.
“You can get an ice-cream at 3 o’clock in the morning if you want, I ring the bell and a nurse will come. They are wonderful. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
She’s also quite matter-of-fact about having planned her funeral. The funeral mass is to be said by a priest who was a former neighbour from when she lived in Ballyfermot - she’s lived in the city centre for the past 30 years - and it’s to be in Rathmines where she went to school in St Louis when she lived nearby as a young child.
She made her First Communion in Rathmines Church and there’s a long family connection with it.
“My grandmother and two aunts worked there for 130 years concurrently, cleaning Rathmines Church. One of my aunts who is now 97 worked cleaning the church until she was 90. She has the equivalent of an OBE from the Pope.”
Another thing Dolores feels she’s been “lucky” about is that she hasn’t suffered much pain during her illness. Now she’s comfortable in her room in the hospice, chatting with visitors and devouring political programmes on TV - and of course the food magazines.
“I would certainly recommend the hospice,” she says.
You can read more about Our Lady's Hospice and Care Services at www.olh.ie - Thank you to Dolores for taking to time to speak with us for Health Matters and this website.