Ashley De Foa was the first girl to be born on the De Foa side of the family in sixty-five years! Such was the joy and surprise, that for her whole life, Ashley was loved, almost revered by all members of the family. In return, Ashley loved deeply, always making decisions for the best of the family to make them happy.
Someone who felt this incredible love from Ashley was her sister Jessica. The two girls were the best of friends who found joy in each other’s lives. Jessica understood Ashley like no one else and their rapport and love never faltered during their years together. From the age of three and a half years old, Ashley had her younger sister’s back; climbing into her crib so often that the crib broke.
As she grew older, Ashley’s interests turned to the local Teen Tour band for which she played the clarinet and travelled the World. One of her favourite moments was playing at the Orange Bowl when Shaggy, her favourite Rapper, was performing the half-time show. Her strong personality led Ashley to pursue what she wanted in life and demonstrated order and responsibility; she would collect coupons to help out the family on shopping trips and straighten any crooked items on the shelves.
Being a good listener and someone who demonstrated extreme loyalty, Ashley maintained many friendships by keeping connections alive. After leaving high-school, Ashley completed a five year honours degree in Biology at Brock University. After a further two years at Conestoga College, Ashley became a Bio-technology Technician. One of only three students that received a job offer before graduation, Ashley was hired by Maple Leaf foods in Guelph as a technician. This was a proud moment for her that justified all the work she put into her studying.
Three years into her career, as things were falling into place, Ashley was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer. Her life was put on hold while she went through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Moving back home so her family could support her, Ashley was saddened by the loss of her independence and peer group. She was able to finally return to work part-time and it felt good to achieve normalcy and routine. Unfortunately, this was short-lived and tragically, Ashley’s dad Glenn passed away suddenly in the fall of 2016.
Among the shock and grief of Glenn’s death, Ashley’s cancer returned a few months later resulting in a second surgery. Throughout it all, Ashley refused to become a victim and never felt sorry for herself. She faced all things openly and with courage. As times became difficult, the family chose to adopt the saying “Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day”.
Ashely’s mom Anne, and sister Jessica took care of her at home with community nursing supports. Dr. Marshall and the Niagara West Palliative Care Team were involved to consult on the management of symptoms. As the cancer advanced, Ashley became reliant on a wheelchair for mobilizing and was unable to stand without assistance. After two falls at home, and struggles every day with the responsibilities of care, Ashley, her mom and sister realized it was time for admission to McNally House.
After arriving at McNally, Ashley felt she was no longer a burden, she knew that her mom and sister could just be family without the extra responsibilities of caregiving. The acknowledgement of losses was profound for Ashley, and when reflecting on the road ahead, confided to Anne that at least she would not be leaving a child behind.
Ashley spent one month at McNally House where her dignity was maintained throughout the decline in her ability to function. Having professional staff provide intimate care relieved a lot of anxiety for both Ashley and her mom and sister. Explanations were given freely by the staff and the family was always informed. They were encouraged and supported to be part of every decision when Ashley could no longer communicate. Her comfort was of the utmost importance to all involved in her care. She was more at ease with female nurses and support workers and this request was honoured and accommodated to maintain her dignity.
Anne, Ashley’s mom, observed that the staff at McNally House found a balance in meeting the needs of all residents and families in the building at any given time. She indicated that she couldn’t imagine going through the process of losing her daughter without the support of the hospice staff and volunteers. It helped her immensely and the support made her feel that she wasn’t isolated and alone.
Psycho-Spiritual Clinician, Arthur Loik provided counselling for Ashley, Anne and Jessica. He had met them all on admission and had got to know them well. “It was easy to discuss feelings of grief and sadness with him. Counselling was always accessible, and a rapport was easily established. Arthur always seemed to know the appropriate thing to say at the right time.”
When Anne and Jessica were informed that Ashley didn’t have much longer, they were able to stay around the clock to be there for her. Ashley passed away on December 3, 2017 with her family by her side.