Hospice Care Week is a national campaign which aims to raise awareness of the importance of hospice care across the UK and runs from 6th to 12th October 2014.
It is estimated that as many as 1 in 3 people in the UK will be touched by hospice care at some point in their lives – either directly as a patient, or as a friend / family member of someone with a terminal illness.
Compton Hospice has been providing trusted end of life care for patients diagnosed with an incurable illness, and their families, for over 30 years. Our care is guided by the needs of the family and focuses on providing dignified medical, psychological and spiritual support at the point when a persons illness is deemed no longer curable.
To show our support for the national campaign we will be sharing the stories of a number of patients and relatives who have been supported by Compton Hospice over the years.
This is Leasa’s Story:
In June 2010, my husband Anthony (or Tony as he liked to be called) fell ill. He’d started experiencing some swelling in his joints, mainly his knees and wrists, which we initially thought might have been arthritis. He went back and forth to the doctors who would give him various drugs and medicines, but nothing seemed to stop the swelling. He was eventually sent for tests, a full body scan and all that kind of stuff. We were then given an appointment to go and see someone at the Nuffield Hospital.
And that’s when the doctor told us, there was a shadow on his lung – cancer! The doctor was talking, we were listening but I just couldn’t take it in. It was almost like they were telling somebody else they have cancer, like it was part of a documentary. The doctor explained that he thought the cancer had been caught relatively early and that Tony would be referred for various treatment.
The next few months were like a bit like a blur, but it was also like a terrible nightmare because nothing seemed to work. Every treatment possible was given to him, but he never ever felt sorry for himself. It was just like suddenly we’d got cancer in our lives, I remember thinking ‘this doesn’t happen to me, it doesn’t happen to us, it happens to other people, not my husband’.
During one of his stays at the Nuffield we were told that the cancer had started to press on Tony’s larynx and at that point we were informed that the hospital would be referring us to nurses at Compton Hospice who were better equipped to deal with the next phase of Tony’s condition. At that point in time Compton were operating from the Nuffield because of the refurbishment works that were being carried out at the hospice site. I remember Tony saying ‘I don’t want to go down that corridor, you don’t come back!’. We were both so scared.
But the hospice helped us both through what was the most difficult time. They were there for Tony who made him feel comfortable, and they were there for me and our daughters. Tony was so concerned with how the girls would be affected by his death. They were both so young at the time, but he wanted them to know and understand what was happening so that they could eventually move on from it. It was Compton Hospice who helped us to do this. I remember one of the girls asking me why it was her daddy that had to get cancer. That was hard, and I didn’t have the answers, but Compton helped them to understand.
I remember having one of our grief therapy sessions with Tony sat in one room whilst me and the girls were in another room with the bereavement visitor – Ruth, talking about him dying. Ruth helped us to understand the importance of keeping the girls informed about what was going on, we didn’t want them growing up with bitterness in their hearts, we wanted them to, one day, get over this. Ruth visited us at home several times, and even visited the girls at School.
Tony was so brave. He was a director of a company and insisted on working, even having meetings with colleagues by his bedside, up until the day before he died. The day Tony died, Ruth was there with me. She had actually come to see how I was doing. I remember holding Tony’s hand and all of a sudden then his breath had stopped. I was screaming ‘No!’ and Ruth just held me. I don’t know why, but I felt I had to leave the room, I couldn’t stand to see him not breathing. I felt awful for doing it, but Ruth made me realise we all react differently to grief.
After Tony died I really struggled. Dealing with everything – from funeral arrangements to bills to answering people’s phone calls – I found it really hard. Ruth came to visit me at the house as well, and just gave me a chance to talk about how I was feeling. I don’t know what I’d have done without that person there for me and the children. Just to have that person who knew what we were going through. Afterwards she continued to come around to speak to me and the girls. The girls still talk about her now. Now, when I see my two girls happy and laughing it’s beautiful, and that’s because Ruth helped them to realise it would be ok to eventually smile again.
I also started going to Compton Hospice’s Complementary Therapy centre where I would have reflexology or a massage. Going there made me feel like I had a purpose again, and that people were there for me. From the time Tony was diagnosed, to the day he died, it was me that was with him – taking him to appointments, dealing with medication, looking after the house, doing the school run. So afterwards, having that time just for me meant the world.
Compton Hospice are wonderful people. On the outside, when you talk about Compton Hospice you think it’s all about people going there to die, but people don’t see everything else that the place has to offer. You don’t see how much they help the family. They ensure that the family don’t falter after the person has died, you give them the strength to be able to carry on afterwards.
I hope that one day, by me talking about this, I can help reach out to other people. What Compton did for us was amazing.