Savannah Gray never gave up hope despite turning to hospice care when her cancer continued to spread.
Sadly, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of ovarian cancer after visiting the gynecologist with severe pain. Gray thought the pain might be caused by a tubal pregnancy, but the diagnosis was far worse. She was transferred to Barnes Hospital in St. Louis when a biopsy revealed that her body was filled with cancer.
Unfortunately, doctors were unable to remove all the cancer during a six-hour surgery, her mother, Sharon Hammack, said. She underwent several rounds of chemotherapy treatment followed by a stem cell transplant, but it failed to keep her cancer at bay. While doctors told her there was nothing more they could do, she held out hope for more options.
Gray and her boyfriend were in denial for months about her prognosis, but she decided to accept hospice care when the pain became almost too much to bear. “I drove her to the Emergency Department and the doctor asked me if she had considered hospice care. I told him no because she thinks hospice is the end,” Hammack said. However, the doctor explained to her that hospice doesn’t just come in for the end, they come in to help.
“It was a whole new way of thinking to wrap her mind around,” her mother said. While she still hoped for a miracle, the family credits Lincolnland Hospice of Sarah Bush Lincoln for helping Gray make the most of her final months with loved ones.
“Savannah’s hospice nurse was fantastic,” Hammock said of Michelle Homann-Kersey, RN. “They became very close and she just wanted to talk to Michelle alone at times. Her nurse helped her make peace with her condition emotionally.”
Through her battle with cancer, Savannah never lost her fun-loving spirit. When Savannah became upset about losing her hair, she shaved it short and had her mother dye it bright green and later her sister dyed it fluorescent blue. Savannah was the happiest person and the happiest kid I ever met,” her mother said, reminiscing about how fitting it was to name her after the movie ‘Savannah Smiles.’
Savannah was excited to learn about Lincolnland Hospice’s Grant-A-Wish program, which offers end-of-life requests of up to $500 for all its patients. Since she was too weak for her first choice of a trip to Florida, she opted for a having special spa day. Homann-Kersey arranged to have someone come to her home to provide Gray with a day of pampering including giving her a manicure and pedicure. “Savannah really liked the Minions, so she had Minions painted on her fingernails and her toenails. She did an excellent job and Savannah talked about it for weeks. She showed them off to everyone,” her mother said.
Hammock moved in with her daughter during her final weeks to help more with her care. Out of the blue, Savannah asked her mother to call a pastor one day though she was never a churchgoer. “She decided she wanted to be baptized before he left,” Hammack said. The family gathered for a special ceremony at a church in Neoga to witness Savannah’s baptism just a week before she died on March 29, 2016. “It was a special day,” Hammack said. Her mother was thankful that when it was time, Savannah passed peacefully in her sleep. She was just 30 years old.
“She never, ever gave up hope, and she joked and kidded with us until the very end,” her mother said. “Hospice made her journey a little easier and for that we are very thankful,” she said.
Lincolnland Hospice cares for people in 20 counties in East Central and Southern Illinois, regardless of their ability to pay, and provides comprehensive bereavement services. For more information about Lincolnland Hospice, call 1-800-454-4055.
Lincolnland Binga Raises $13,500 in support of Hospice
Lincolnland Hospice’s touches hundreds of people like Savannah Gray and her family each year, reaching people from 20 Illinois counties.
Sarah Bush Lincoln recently raised $13,500 in support of services provided by Lincolnland Hospice during its ninth annual Lincolnland Binga which gave participants an opportunity to win Longeberger handcrafted baskets and other home and lifestyle products. Net proceeds from the event make it possible for Lincolnland Hospice to offer free community bereavement, fulfill end-of-life wishes through its Grant-A-Wish program, provide care to patients without resources and meet the unique needs of our veterans through the Veteran Outreach Program.
The Grant-A-Wish program offers patients up to $500 toward life-fulfilling wishes. Whether it’s engraved jewelry, baseball game tickets, or a trip with loved ones, Lincolnland Hospice grants special end-of-life requests to people throughout the year. In addition, bereavement services begin when a person is admitted into Hospice and are offered for a minimum of 13 months after the person’s death.
For more information about Lincolnland Hospice, call 1-800-454-4055.