Great beginnings laid foundation for nursing grad, author

The values instilled in a nursing grad who helped a dying man get the most from his final days and then go on to co-author a book about him were acquired right here at the University of Windsor, she says.

“The University of Windsor has been an indelible part of my career,” says Grace Bradish (BScN, BA, 1977). “It’s been a fundamental part of everything I’ve done. It was a huge gift for me to be able to get in there. It was a very solid nursing program and the university community was really, really tight.”

A nurse practitioner, Bradish spent about 30 years in pediatric and oncology nursing before taking a job in palliative home care with the South West Community Care Access Centre. One of her earliest patients there was Rob Fazakerley, who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August of 2009. His wife Jen is a CCAC regional manager, who left her job to become his primary caregiver after his diagnosis.

Assigned to care for Fazakerley, Bradish visited him on a monthly basis helping him deal with pain, nausea and fatigue associated with his disease as well as liaising with oncology experts and counselling the family on treatment options and contingency plans.

Much of her correspondence with Fazakerley’s wife and Helen Butlin-Battler – a spiritual care specialist with the London Regional Cancer Program – was via e-mail, and she saved all of it. The messages that came from Jen about her husband’s condition soon became known as “The Rob Updates.” About 14 months after he was diagnosed, Fazakerley died and after a little while, she sent all of that correspondence back to his wife.

“My thought was that the content would help her during her grieving period,” she said. “Jen conceded that it took her a couple of weeks to open the file, but once she did, she couldn’t stop reading them.”

The correspondence file eventually became the basis for Just Stay, a book co-authored by Bradish, Butlin-Battler, and Jen Fazakerley that chronicles how Rob lived his final days with courage, good humour, hope and love for his family. The book was launched last month and has already sold about 600 copies.

In her description of the book Jen Fazakerley describes her co-authors as wise women who sustained her spiritually and guided her through her treacherous journey. Caring for Rob with compassion, dignity and respect for his family’s wishes couldn’t have happened without the education she received in Windsor, Bradish says.

“It was always very patient centered, back before they were even using the phrase patient-centered,” she says of the nursing faculty. “It’s all about valuing the uniqueness of that individual in front of you and that this is a spiritual, social, psychological, emotional being. These are all values that I’m proud to say were introduced and ingrained in me at the University of Windsor. I had a great beginning that was influenced by some really incredible faculty.”

Bradish says the book makes for compelling reading for anyone who’s had a similar experience, but will of particular interest to nursing students, spiritual care providers, and anyone working in health care.

“The story is extremely organic,” she says. “The consistent feedback we get from people is that they can’t put it down.”


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