Cynthia Parr.

Cynthia stars in a documentary about her life called “By your side.”

What is it that you do?

I work as a Palliative Care Physician at Royal North Shore and Greenwich Hospitals.  My job is to improve the quality of life of people with terminal illnesses and relieve them of distressing physical, psychosocial or spiritual symptoms.  I work with a team of doctors, nurses and allied health staff to achieve this and we also provide a support system for our patients’ families.

How long have you been doing this work?

I’ve been caring for the dying, predominantly cancer patients, for the last eleven years and before this a lot of my medical training was in cancer wards.

 Who has been your inspiration?

Most people ask me if I get depressed at watching the people around me die on a daily basis.  I would have to say that in spite of some very sad moments, there is so much that is positive in the way  my patients and colleagues deal with adversity. I may see grief and sadness but I also see altruism, humour, bravery, stoicism, resilience, forgiveness, hope and love in the face of death and this restores my faith in all that is good about people.  I would have to say that my patients are my driving force and my inspiration.

How do you relax?                                                                                                        

It is very important to make sure that I recognize when I am burning out or need a break.  I relax by debriefing with other colleagues about difficult cases, taking decent long holidays regularly and balancing work (which I do part-time) with play.  I also foster friendships and make it a point to see my family regularly. Exercise is great for unwinding, especially  at Northstar where I  learnt how to detach myself from emotions,  focus and live in the moment.  Punching and kicking the pads helped too!  Above all, I have the support of my husband to help me through trying times.


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  3. David Gillies on July 26, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    One of the reasons I have not been able to train recently is that I spent every lunchtime and every night and weekend sitting by my fathers bedside at Greenwich Hospital. Cynthia and her Team in Pall Care do a great job of maintaining the quality of the lives of their patients and indeed of their patients’ families. I call them the “Yes Team” because everything I have requested for my Dad, no matter how ‘unhospital-like’ they have always agreed to whole-heartedly. As a result, my father is happy & relaxed and feels safe & cared for in what can only imagine could have been a difficult environment. My sincere thanks to Cynthia and her colleagues. I feel even better now knowing that Dad is in the care of a fellow member of my Northstar family.


  4. andy on July 26, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Hi David, Thanks for taking the time to write. So happy that your Dad is being looked after. Cynthia really is an inspiration.

    Kind Regards


    • David Gillies on September 2, 2010 at 11:33 pm

      Dad passed away recently at Greenwich; peacefully, painlessly and happily. My sincere thanks goes to Cynthia, her colleagues and her special team at Greenwich for all their help and comfort and support. They are truly inspirational. Once you embrace the inevitability of terminal disease, you can concentrate on the method and the journey. As in martial arts: the outcome is known, but the technique must learned.

      Thank you,

  5. Helene Mearing on July 27, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Very special, beautiful person you are Cynthia and thank you Andy for taking the time to acknowledge them. Cynthia reminds me so much of my beautiful sister who was a recovery nurse, unfortunatley we went through the journey of watching her fade away.
    These nurses, carers, doctors, people who take the time to create peace of mind for our terminally ill are the most remarkable, inspirational extraordinary people and it has been such an privalge to have many as a part of my life.
    This is an inspiring page to read, Thank you

  6. andy on July 27, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Thankyou Helene for your kind and caring words.

  7. Vaughan on August 4, 2010 at 11:49 am

    What an inspiration to others and what a great reminder of the importance of recognising all that is good about people, and what a great insight into all of the characteristics that Cynthia sees in her patients. It’s also great to know hear that Cynthia is able to detach through exercise.
    Thanks for sharing Cynthia’s story.

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