Linda Iler is an absolute icon for so many reasons, but having your grandson think you’re cool may well be the one that makes her the proudest! Linda is a patient at the Erie Shores Hospice Residence, and wanted to tell the story of her own experience with Hospice.
“I was born in the Windsor area, but spent a great part of my life in Northern Ontario,” says Linda. This petite 74-year old has an interesting life story, which has taken her from being the only female 50-ton crane operator at Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie, to thousands of miles of 18-wheel trucking, to owning her own motorcycle. It was that two-wheeled machine that connected Linda to the North Wall Riders Association (NWRA), a group of motorcycle riders dedicated to supporting all Veterans. As a 10-year member, the official Secretary, and un-official Grandma to the group, she has risen in the ranks, to be a well-respected leader.
Living in the area, and loving any opportunity to ride her motorcycle, she naturally jumped at the opportunity to take part in Hogs For Hospice. “I attended their very first event, and right from that moment, I was hooked on what they were doing, and the Hospice they were supporting,” she explains. She immediately recruited her fellow members from the North Wall Riders to get involved with Hogs and their events.
“At that time, I had a traditional motorcycle, but after I ‘tumbled over’ on the bike, and spent several months in physiotherapy, I sold that bike and bought myself a Can-Am Spyder (a 3-wheel touring motorcycle),” says Linda. “My daughter was not impressed, but my grandson thought I was cool!” she laughs. “I would still be riding if I weren’t here!”
“But, honestly it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with cancer, and then admitted to the Erie Shores Hospice that I came to truly understand what Hospice really means. It has all happened so fast, and it has taken me a while to absorb everything. I don’t know that I’m ever going to be able to say how much the nurses, PSW’s, doctors and volunteers have helped me and my family with that process.”
Linda’s daughter Carole lives north of Huntsville, and hurried down to Leamington as soon as she found out about her Mom’s diagnosis. “When she was admitted to Hospice, it gave us all some breathing room,” says Carole, “we knew that my Mom was safe and comfortably settled.”
“The people here – the staff and volunteers – are just amazing,” says Linda. “They pop in all through the day to check in on me, sometimes just a quick ‘how you doing’ as they pass by the door. One of the nurses found out I had a craving for Reese’s Pieces and she brought me some on her next shift.” Linda has quickly become a fixture at the Residence, gliding around the place with the help of her custom ‘stand up’ walker. “It’s not quite the same ride as my Spyder, but I’m happy to still be able to get around a little,” she smiles.
Both Linda and Carole are also grateful for the “breathing space” that Hospice has granted to them. “It has been a God-send,” says Carole. “My Mom and I have been able to sit together and go over all of her requirements and requests, literally ‘checking off the boxes.’ Mom is super organized and wants to make sure everything is properly arranged. Hospice has given us the time and support to do that.”
The Erie Shores Hospice team was also instrumental in organizing a very special event for Linda and the members of the North Wall Riders Association (NWRA). They invited all the members of NWRA to the Erie Shores Welcome Centre, located right on the Campus of the Erie Shores Hospice. They assembled in a leather vest clad “honour guard” to welcome Linda to the party, where she was presented with her official Life Member patch. There was cake, laughter, stories, and lots of heartfelt hugs for and from their club Grandma.
“I can’t ever say enough about all that Hospice has done for me and my family,” says Linda. “Everything they do is with an open heart.” Linda has been a patient at the Erie Shores Hospice Residence for nearly a month, and she wants to share her story with the community. “So many people don’t really understand what Hospice is all about. It’s like becoming part of a great big supportive family.”