My sister Cicely (Dame Cicely Saunders OM, FRCP, MA, SRN) was the pioneer of Hospice care and put it on the map.
What has come to be known as the Hospice Movement was initiated and led for over 40 years by Cicely with tremendous drive and determination. She had successively qualified as a nurse, as a lady almoner, and as a doctor and got an Oxford degree in social sciences (PPE). She came a long way from being a six foot tall, shy, very intelligent girl, feeling a bit of an outsider, to be one of the very remarkable people who have changed the care of the terminally ill. Happily her work, and that of many others who took up her challenges, was recognised in her lifetime, with Royal honours and 22 Honorary Doctorates – she said if she couldn’t sleep she counted those degrees, not sheep!
Besides Cicely we should remember a remarkable series of women, some of whom preceded her, and others who joined in the work with her later on. From Sister Mary Aitkenhead of Dublin, Dean Florence Wald of the Yale University Nursing School in Newhaven, Connecticut, USA, to Louie of Hackney, one of Cicely’s favourite and surprisingly long-lived patients at St Joseph’s, and now, fortunately for us, there are legions of such great people around the world.