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Kimberley Burns (1962-2023): steadfast cancer nurse

Kimberley Burns

A nurse who took on the tough job of working alongside cancer patients, some of whom were terminally ill, brought a combination of grit and compassion to the role.

Kimberley Burns, whose life was ultimately cut short by ovarian cancer, was remembered with deep respect by Ann Smith Gordon, the former executive director of the cancer charity Pals.

“I hired her as a counsellor and she became a Pals nurse. In my 33 years there, I always said that to do that job it didn’t matter if you had all the experience in the world.

“If you didn’t have it in your heart, you could not do it.

“Kim had that wonderful personality for a nurse. She was athletic and fun but also had a side to her that’s necessary in looking after many patients, some of whom are tremendously ill.

“I wish all nurses and professionals in the medical field could have the same persona as Kim.

Ms Smith Gordon said that Mrs Burns’s husband, Michael, and their three daughters, Amanda, Laura and Jessica, all spoke at her memorial service last Tuesday at St Theresa’s Roman Catholic Cathedral.

“They were a very, very close family. That was certainly evident at her service. At such an emotional and terrible time, they spoke from the heart.”

Mrs Burns came to Bermuda in 1992 after meeting her husband in Canada. The couple were married for 36 years.

Her athletic prowess began early: she won a high school trophy in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, as a top student and athlete, and earned a scholarship to St Francis Xavier University.

She received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, ultimately specialising in oncology.

She worked as a bone-marrow transplant nurse at the Hospital for Sick Children, a paediatric hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto, followed by the Addiction Research Foundation, before continuing her career in Bermuda after the birth of their first child.

Mrs Burns was a bereavement counsellor with Pals as well as a nurse, and in 1998 she was appointed director of Agape House, the island’s only hospice.

That same year, she explained the role in an interview with the Mid-Ocean News, saying that the reward for her work was “knowing you made a difference”.

“When I go home at the end of the day, it is good to know I made a difference to the quality of someone's life. That is what keeps me going.

“It is a lesson about life. You need to live life to the fullest. Even though I am only 35, I have an appreciation of life beyond my years because of my work.”

Mrs Burns was a competitive athlete, in rowing as well as tennis, volleyball and pickleball.

In retirement, she excelled in the holiday rental business.

A family memorial reads: “Kim’s family was the centre of her world.

“She worked hard to create a beautiful life for herself and her family.

“Combining lessons learnt from a lifetime of compassionate caregiving, warm hosting, competitive sportsmanship and family devotion, Kim made everything and everyone feel special.

“She departed this world ahead of the timelines we had imagined, leaving behind echoes of years unrealised. She is deeply mourned.”

• Kimberley Anne Burns, an oncology nurse and former head of Agape House, was born on May 13, 1962. She died on November 23, 2023, aged 61

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Published December 08, 2023 at 7:57 am (Updated December 08, 2023 at 7:57 am)

Kimberley Burns (1962-2023): steadfast cancer nurse

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