Page 4 - CanTalk Issue 73 Autumn 2015
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CANCER SOCIETY OF NEW ZEALAND • Te Kāhui Matepukupuku o Aotearoa  CANTALK 73 AUTUMN 2015

Edwina huddles with long-serving volunteers                   Edwina with Helen (MSH’s new supervisor)

Edwina takes her leave                                        There haven’t been many big parties at MSH. Instead
                                                              Edwina’s kept people busy by dotting the week
Edwina Tyree retired from her role as the                     with events to pass the time, like Scone Day, which
supervisor at Margaret Stewart House (MSH) in                 everyone looks forward to. Edwina’s only forgotten the
late March so I took the opportunity to talk to her           baking powder three times in 17 years. She believes
about her experiences one last time before she                that the trick to her technique ‘is a strong knife and a
left.                                                         strong arm’.

Edwina has been the supervisor at MSH for 17 years            Edwina admits she’s met a few characters at the
and worked at Richard Evans House for seven years             House over the years. But she’s respected people’s
before that. She clearly remembers having to make             privacy and always kept confidences. ‘Isn’t it great’
coffee, as a test of her housekeeping, for the others         says Ed. ‘None of us are the same. Some people
interviewing for the job. It can’t have been a bad cup        bubble over, others are shy. But everyone brings ‘their
because Roger Taylor and Noel Kerrisk, who worked             bit’. Some have never lived communally, but because
on the project of setting up the House, gave her the          everyone’s got their own bedroom, ensuite, own telly,
job.                                                          they don’t have to be bunged up – they can leave the
                                                              chatter behind’. Edwina says ‘Communal living won’t
Edwina’s first task was to unpack everything, including       suit everyone but most say it’s great here – so central
the beds and furniture, which was a big job. Then,            to the shops and across the road from the hospital’.
says Edwina, ‘All the people walked over from
Mathew Kennedy House with their suitcases. People             Listening to many sad life stories hasn’t affected
felt it was too big, too expensive, too everything.           Edwina’s bright outlook on life. She hasn’t retained
But after three weeks they settled in. And now                the stories she hears, preferring instead to enjoy the
we’ve messed it up, says Ed. ‘We’ve got pot plants,           conversations at the time. She’s practised a, now very
newspapers strewn about, pillows airing, just like a          modern, philosophy of ‘being present’ and staying
normal home, which is just how we like it.’                   in the moment. She’s sums it up by saying, ‘We are
                                                              living with cancer and the people here are living with
Things have changed a little since they opened with           cancer and we’re just helping them live ‘with’.
the place being much busier now. But Ed has always
aimed to maintain a warm and friendly atmosphere              Edwina has a group of tradesmen coming to
at the House. She says ‘When people come in, they             her farewell that she’s been able to call on in an
know why they’re here, we know why they’re here. We           emergency. ‘They’ll come off another job if it’s urgent:
just do our best to make it flow. We want them to feel        water coming off a fluoro tube with a guy sitting
at ease. If they go to sleep in an armchair and snore,        under it on a dialysis machine.’ It’s been their way of
they’re at ease and that’s good’.                             contributing to the life of the house.

Very occasionally, Edwina’s had to tell people not to         I asked Ed what she thought might be going through
do things and she’s developed a way to deal nicely            her mind as she walked out the door for the last time.
with it. ‘I was scared to tell people off at first, but I’ve  She replies ‘What have I left behind? I bet you there’s
learnt that the faster you address a problem, the             something – a pair of shoes in a cupboard.’ But the
better it is. Don’t wait until it gets worse. Just take it    many people who’ve worked with Ed and the people
on. Keep it light and it’ll be fine.’

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