Emma’s Story

“Mum was diagnosed with cancer in 2013 when I was 13, and then re-diagnosed in April 2017 when I was in college. You really don’t think it is going to happen, until it happens. I was studying full time and Mum was absolutely brilliant.”

“I know everyone says that about their loved ones, but Mum was incredible. She had end of life cancer and was still working around the house. Even when Mum was having chemo she would drive herself to her appointments, despite what she was going through.”

“Cancer did not have control of her – Mum stayed in control. The way she kept going was just incredible. I was and still am really proud of her.”

“I finished my first year of college in June and from then, I was at home full time with Mum. I just wanted to spend as much time with her, as we knew her cancer was terminal.  I don’t think it really hit me when I was still at college.”

“I knew about St Clare’s because my Mum was a local District Nurse and so she had patients who went to the Hospice – then, sadly, Mum ended up being a patient there herself.”

“Mum was having a problem getting her pain medication regulated, and she was in a lot of pain, so she decided to take the option to come to St Clare’s.  The nurses at St Clare could regulate pain more effectively than we could at home.  It was important to get the medication balanced to ease her pain.”

“It was August 2017 when Mum came to St Clare’s inpatient unit for pain management. It was daunting coming into St Clare’s to start with as Mum had had patients there, and now she was there as a patient herself. It was a big role reversal. At the same time, I trusted my Mum, and I just thought – if this is what she wants, then I am here for her –  and I followed what she wanted. I was looking forward to her being in less pain, and to it being easier for her.”

“St Clare’s is in a beautiful area – the setting is so peaceful and serene. I think that is really important for people when they are at the end of their lives – to be in a place that is calm and relaxing.”

“It made a big difference to be in St Clare’s with Mum. I could stay over and sleep in her room with her, and that was really important because I got to have that time with Mum. I was anxious about not being there when Mum died, so it was good that I didn’t have to leave. It was really lovely to be able to be there with her.”

“Before Mum passed away I found out about St Clare’s services for families and the fact that there are therapy and counselling services. I felt that I needed that support. I think I was proactive in the way that I felt I needed to talk to someone about my Mum.”

“I didn’t talk to anyone when she was diagnosed for the first time, and I had it in the back of my mind that I really needed to talk to someone. I just wanted to talk about life – not necessarily about my Mum having cancer. When I saw the opportunity that the Hospice offered, I thought – this is my time.”

“I met the therapist at St Clare for my first session the day before Mum died, in September 2017. It was perfect timing, if you can have perfect timings for these things.”

“I see having access to counselling and therapy as a privilege. I know there is a shortage of bereavement and mental health counselling services in general across the country, and that lots of people cannot access counselling. So I decided that if I have the opportunity to talk to someone, I should take it.”

“Having counselling at St Clare has been such a significant part of my grief journey. It has helped me so much.”

“I had read that St Clare offered art therapy for young people, and at first I wondered – as a 17-year-old – if I was the right age group for therapy with arts and crafts, or if it would be childish. But when I went for my first counselling session and I ended up drawing a box on a page – and from that we discussed what that box represented, and it was a route in to discussing how I was feeling and what I had gone through that week. Don’t judge a book by its cover, art therapy has definitely been instrumental in my understanding of grief.”

“I think there has been a big stigma around mental health, and so my message for other young people of my age, and younger, is that it is so important to talk to someone – especially if you have lost someone.”

“People can have delayed grief, and the best way for me was to talk about it straight away. Everyone is different, but that’s what worked for me. My Mum was and still is very close to my heart, she was my very best friend, and so it was very important that I had someone to talk to.”

“The biggest issue for me was the acceptance of Mum’s death. When my therapist would say ‘your Mum has died’ I didn’t like the fact that she would use the words ‘died’ or ‘dead’. Although I knew that Mum had died, there was still some denial that it had happened, and in my head she was still alive. I was in a confused state where I didn’t know what had happened, but at the same time, I did know.”

“I also spoke to the therapist about my experience with ‘grief attacks’. A grief attack is when you have a sudden memory relapse about someone in your life who has died. You may miss them or yearn for them. It happened to me once in the cinema, I was watching a film where the character received a letter from their loved one that had died. They tend to say – I’m really proud of you, things will be ok – and I just ended up crying in the cinema because I never got that final letter from Mum. My friends just thought it was because of the film, but it was because I didn’t get that sense of conclusion.”

“Without the counselling I have had at St Clare, I don’t think I would have been able to accept my grief. Accepting my grief is a massive part of me being able to live with it.”

“With the help I have had from St Clare’s, and my therapist Catherine, I have been able to talk about my Mum, and death, more openly. I would go into a session and tell my therapist I’d had a tough week and she would discuss it with me.  Being able to understand the underlying emotions related to grief was really helpful. Sometimes when you are grieving you think you’re going crazy and you can be really hard on yourself.”

“Having had the support from St Clare’s therapy services, I am now confident to talk about death and have been keen to help other young people out there too.”

“Young people need to talk together. I think there needs to be a change in the way people approach the subject of death.”

“That is why, for my final college project, I recorded a podcast with two of my friends from my media course. We discussed the subjects of death, grief and bereavement, because we wanted to record something personal, and we also wanted to address the stigma around death in our society. Two of us have lost a parent, and the other friend’s mother is a cancer survivor. We talked about what ‘bereavement’ is – because a lot of young people are unfamiliar with that word – and we discussed our personal experiences, and what you can expect when you are grieving.”

“We discussed the language people use around death – and how we use phrases like ‘passed away’ in social situations. We said how with younger kids it can cause confusion when people use certain euphemisms like ‘Mummy has gone away with the angels’ or ‘Dad has just fallen into a deep sleep’. All of these things can add to the taboo of death – which just makes it harder if you are a child or a teenager going through bereavement.”

“The more you skip around the subject of death, the more taboo there is going to be. It’s so important to talk about death.”

“When I did the podcast I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I was happy that I had talked about my own experience with other people – other than my therapist and my Dad. It was so liberating to have that conversation with my friends, because I hadn’t talked to them about it before. We all felt that death should be talked about more openly. It’s good to sit and talk about something that society commonly avoids. That is how you affect change.

“I hope that I can make even just a tiny change, and that even if one person listens to my podcast and it has some form of positive impact, that way it’ll be worth it.”

 

– Emma

 


Let’s talk…

To listen to Emma’s Podcast, click the YouTube link here.

Access St Clare’s resources on ‘How to talk about death and dying’ here.


 

Wendy’s Story

“I first came in to contact with St Clare when my Macmillan nurse suggested that I come in for the Day Therapy group sessions.”

“I had been diagnosed with Cancer in April 2017 and was told that I had stage 4 bowel and ovarian cancer. They tired a couple of rounds of Chemotherapy but it wasn’t effective and, in fact, nearly killed me, so we decided to stop. Since then, it has been all about being positive and keeping going.”

“I am a great believer in being positive. I think that if you can remain positive, it makes a really big difference.”

“It was in the Spring of 2018 and the Macmillan team were coming in to see me at home. The team were great and really helped with lots of things – like getting bannisters put down the stairs and a seat to go across the bath. They were really helpful. It was my Macmillan nurse who suggested that I come to St Clare for the Day Therapy group sessions.”

“I had been virtually in bed for almost a year, and had been so sick. I had lost lots of weight and I couldn’t wait to get out of the house and do something! So it was wonderful for me to come to St Clare.”

“I started coming along to the Day Therapy sessions and one of the first activities was a creative session where I started dabbling with the paints. My first drawing, I must confess, was pretty awful! But it made me decide to get my own paints out when I got home, and to give painting a go again. I got home and was sitting with my watercolours trying to think of something to paint. I think everybody has something they can do. My sister suggested that I started painting flowers so I got a book out and started copying the flowers. I thoroughly enjoyed doing it! It is such a good way of relaxing.”

“When you come to St Clare, you talk to people about things that you can’t, or don’t want to, talk to your family about. You get really involved in things, and you can really let yourself go.”

“I love coming down to the Hospice on a Thursday to the Day Therapy group. It gets my brain going! It has opened up so many things for me, it really has. It certainly got me back into painting too. Now my friends and family are always requesting that I do flower paintings for them, I have so many requests!”

“You can have deep discussions about life and death here – or, you can just have a laugh!”

“I love coming to St Clare. They even do complementary therapies and I have had reflexology on my feet, and that has been wonderful because I lost a lot of feeling in my feet through Chemotherapy. After having reflexology I find that I have more movement in my feet and it helps me to walk a lot better. There are just so many things St Clare can do for you – and it all helps.”

“Coming to St Clare helps to enhance my life. When it is time to go home I say ‘you will have me dancing out of here one day!’”

“Coming to St Clare also means that my husband has a break as well, and when I am at the Hospice he can do what he wants. He is my carer and so he needs a bit of time away from my nagging! My husband drops me off at St Clare and knows that I am safe here, he doesn’t have to worry about me. It’s also meant that he has met some other carers and spouses when he drops me off, and they have formed a sort of informal support group. Even just chatting, and passing on tips – like how to apply for a disability card – is really helpful for the carers.”

“St Clare has been an absolute Godsend. I tell everybody about all the different things they do at St Clare’s – and that it is all about helping you to live.”

“We always finish the group sessions with a relaxation exercise at the end of the day, which is good. When I have trouble sleeping at home I think of the relaxation techniques, and it helps me get through it. I take so much of what we do and talk about home with me – including the painting. I can just sit at home and paint which is so lovely – it definitely gives me a bit of a release.”

“It is lovely at St Clare, but I think a lot of people – including myself in the past – hear the word Hospice and think ‘That’s it. You go in there and you are not coming out.” But it’s not like that at all.”

“I have also been to the Hospice as an inpatient. I was having a lot of problems with my medication and so I came in to stay for a week while they assessed and changed my medication. Again, it taught me that the Hospice is not just about death. It is about lots of other things too. They got my medication sorted out, and got me back on track again. St Clare’s is just fantastic.”

“It is so peaceful when you stay on the Inpatient Unit. All the staff are so on the ball, but they let me have my independence as well. I was still getting up and showering myself – I still want to hang on to those things that I can do for myself. But the staff and volunteers were always asking if there was anything they could do for me.”

“It is so lovely staying at St Clare’s. You can look out in to the gardens, which are beautiful, and I love to watch the rabbits and the birds. When it does come to the end, St Clare’s is where I want to be – in such peaceful surroundings.”

“I have put all the plans in place for the end of my life. I have been able to decide what type of care I want, and have arranged and paid for my funeral, and sorted the service out. It means that I have chosen everything that I want – and it is nobody else’s headache. It has actually taken such a weight off me, by arranging everything. And planning my funeral was a bit of a laugh! I have said that I want all the funeral directors to wear pink cravats – and if they are wicked, I will make them wear pink wigs as well! I found a lot of relief by planning everything myself. I would probably not be in this position of having everything planned for the end of my life, if I had not been to St Clare’s.”

“I want to come to St Clare when it is my time, and I have made those plans for the end of my life. But until then, St Clare can help me with so many other things, here and now.”

“I had only been coming to St Clare for Day Therapy for two weeks, when I decided to do a fundraising event for the hospice. Even after such a short time I knew how special the Hospice was and wanted to do something to give back to St Clare.”

“The idea for the fundraiser came about because of my 4-year-old grandson, William. He was really struggling to deal with the fact that I had lost my hair, and had become completely bald. My son was trying to come up with an idea to help my grandson to deal with my lack of hair, and because it was near Easter, he suggested that he should decorate my head to look like an Easter egg!”

“So that’s what they did – it all snowballed from that idea! They called the fundraiser ‘The Human Easter Egg’ and within just two weeks we had organised this massive fundraiser in April 2018. So many people got behind us – it was unbelievable.”

“I literally became a human Easter egg! It wasn’t just me doing it – other people wore swimming caps on their heads too – and we let the kids coat our heads in chocolate spread and then cover our heads with sweets!”

“It was hysterical! I was sitting there all covered in chocolate, with sweets slowly running down my nose! It was a real laugh.”

“The support from everyone in the community was so good. The vicar of St Winifred’s in Chigwell let us hold the event in the hall for free. People did raffles, sold cakes and there was food – considering we only had two weeks to organise it, it was really good. We raised £1,400 for St Clare from the event and we have said we will do it every year from now on!”

“Everything at St Clare has been so good – I would not have changed it for anything. It was the best thing that the Macmillan nurses suggested, that I come to St Clare.”

“When you talk to the other people who come to St Clare, they all say that they love it. I have thoroughly enjoyed being with all the people that I have met in the Day Therapy group – and just coming down to the Hospice has been really great.”

“When my Day Therapy group sessions come to an end I will still be able to come back for some of the ‘drop in’ sessions. There is a café on a Friday, and other creative and physiotherapy groups – so I know that everyone at St Clare will be there beside me and supporting me on my whole journey.”

– Wendy

Kerry’s Story

“My Nan was first diagnosed with cancer in 2009 when she was in her seventies. Nan underwent chemotherapy – my uncle remembers her having chemo on her 75th birthday – and she eventually went into remission. At the time she didn’t really share that much about her illness with me. I think that she wanted to protect me from it, and so she didn’t really go into too much detail.”

“Then in May 2016 Nan was diagnosed with lung cancer and this time she said categorically that she didn’t want to have chemotherapy again. She said she didn’t want to go through it again, and so her choice was to not treat it. The doctors estimated that she only had a few months left to live.”

“My Nan was very independent – she didn’t like to rely on other people. But towards the end she became willing to accept some help from other people, including St Clare. My Nan came for Day Therapy at St Clare and she used to really like coming to the sessions. Nan always liked to have a chat and I think she found talking with other people who were going through the same thing as her, quite helpful and reassuring.”

“Day Therapy was good for her because she got to know other people in a similar position as herself, and she could be here on her own terms. That was important for her, to have control.”

“My Nan came for Day Therapy groups at the Hospice as an outpatient and she would always speak really positively about it. She said the people were so lovely and she always made it sound very ‘home from home’.”

“Nan was very independent. She lived on her own in a warden-assisted bungalow in Harlow. But if you ever had a conversation with her about what she wanted to happen when she died, the one thing she said was that she didn’t want to die alone in her house. She made the decision that when the time came, she would like to come and stay at St Clare Hospice.”

“In December 2017 Nan became quite frail and she was struggling to eat. It was during the really snowy weather just before Christmas that Nan was admitted to St Clare.”

“I didn’t know much about St Clare before I came here to be honest. I wasn’t even really sure where the Hospice was exactly! The first time I came to St Clare was when my Nan had been admitted to the Inpatient Unit.”

“Let’s face it, you say the word ‘hospice’ and you sort of run a little bit cold. I thought that if people die at a Hospice, it’s not exactly going to be a very cheery or happy place. That’s what I imagined before I came.”

“But nothing compares to what it is really like. When you walk in it just feels very light and airy – although you think it is going to be dark and sombre – but you don’t get that impression at all.”

“I came in to visit her for the first time with my three year old son, Ruaridh. My Nan absolutely idolised her great-grandson Ruaridh, and he loved his ‘Nanny Little’, so I really wanted to bring him in to see her.”

“I was concerned about whether she would look too ill that he wouldn’t recognise her, so I checked with my family before we came to see her. They said that Nan just had an oxygen tube in her nose, and Ruaridh asked her about it when he came in. But, like with many 3 year olds, when she told him what it was for, he was happy that he had an answer and he wasn’t phased.”

“Ruaridh sat next to her bed playing Lego, and it was so special for them to spend that time together.”

“Nan’s room was lovely; everything was so clean, new and modern. They even had special lights in the bedroom that shine different colours! My Nan had such a fun sense of humour – we used to really giggle together. Nan liked the fact there were no restrictions at St Clare – she could sit outside on her patio and have a cigarette if she wanted; just like being in her own home.”

“The Hospice had a special air about it because it was Christmas time. There was a big Christmas tree and decorations everywhere, and one lunch time they had carol singing.”

“When you reflect on that, and you look back at the time we spent here, it was actually a nice experience – even if that sounds like a weird thing to say.”

“I was visiting my Nan at St Clare when she said to me that she wanted to find a way to thank the Hospice for their care. That was when I suggested that I make a Charity CD for St Clare.”

“A number of years ago I worked on a cruise ship as an entertainer – hosting, comparing and singing. A friend of mine called Paula wrote to me whilst I was on the ship. I remember being sat in my cabin, and receiving post was the highlight of my week!”

“I received a letter with really meaningful words, and I just picked up my guitar and started to play and turned the letter into a song.”

“When I saw Paula next I played the song for her and she loved it. Paula kept saying that the song would be perfect as a charity single, and that it should be sold to raise money for a charity. But until now, the song has just been sat on my laptop, doing nothing.”

“The song is called ‘What a difference a year makes’ and is all about what is important in life, and appreciating the time that you have.”

“When you are told you have got limited time to live, it actually does make you appreciate the time you have. You’ve really got to enjoy what you’ve got.”

“So when I spoke to my Nan a few weeks before she died, she said that she wanted to do something to raise money to thank St Clare, it seemed like the perfect opportunity at last. I played my Nan the song at her home on a portable speaker. Nan had never heard it before, but as she listened to the lyrics about how you should live your life, she kept saying ‘yeah, I’ve done that, I’ve done that’ – ticking them off! The lyrics to the song were really relevant to my Nan and she said she really liked it.”

“It was great because she wanted to say ‘thank you’ to St Clare and didn’t know how – and my song helped her to do just that.”

“I checked with Paula that she was happy for me to use the song in this way and she was so happy that she even sent me a cheque which helped me to get the CDs made up professionally. Whilst I didn’t manage to get the physical CDs made in time to show my Nan, I did manage to show her the CD cover and she said that she liked it.”

“Towards the end I came to stay with my Nan in her room. It was good that her family was able to sleep in her room, so she wasn’t on her own. It was lunch time on Sunday 17th December when she passed away. I was there with my Dad and my aunts and uncles. It was just how she wanted it.”

“Speaking to my Nan about her life, and the words of the song, it was so good to hear that she did everything that she wanted to do in life. It is reassuring that we spoke about that, and that is how she felt about her life.”

“I was distraught when she died but at the same time I’m just so pleased that she was at peace. She also didn’t die on her own, and that is the main thing that she was worried about.”

“So far I have raised over £500 for St Clare by selling the CDs – and I am happy that I now feel like I have done what I set out to do for my Nan, just as she wished.”

– Kerry


Get your copy of ‘What a difference a year makes’

You can get a copy of the CD ‘What a difference a year makes’ in the Main Reception of the Hospice in Hastingwood for the suggested donation of £5.

Alternatively, if you cannot get to St Clare Hospice, you can contact Kerry on whatadifferenceayearmakescd@outlook.com to arrange getting a copy of the CD.


 

Tamsin’s Story

My Mum, Sue, was a kind, nurturing, selfless person. An ex-primary school teacher, an artist and best of all, a wonderful mother. She always supported and encouraged my sister and I to live life to the full, and was always there for us.”

“During a very bravely fought battle with breast cancer, Mum came to stay at St Clare. I had been caring for her at home, but we got to the point where I didn’t know how I could help her anymore, or what I could do.”

“But then St Clare stepped in, and the sun came out.”

“The moment we walked in to St Clare, it was like stepping into a luxury hotel! From the get-go, nothing was too much trouble. The nurses were always there to help and support us.”

“I had no prior experience of being at a hospice. I felt nervous and worried for my mum, as we didn’t know what to expect or what it would be like. Now, I know how positive, supportive and vital the work of St Clare is.”

“Mum had so many visitors, cards, and flowers whilst she was staying at St Clare. The Hospice was a lovely place to stay. St Clare even made it possible for Mum to return home to Epping, a week before she passed away. The nurses were so supportive in helping her to return home, and then bringing her back to the hospice where she could feel comfortable and peaceful.”

“It is all the elements together that make up St Clare. Everyone we came into contact with was so supportive, and gave my mum exactly what she needed. It meant so much to us, how the Hospice supported us through such a special and difficult time.”

“While we were still at the Hospice, we put our heads together to find a way to celebrate Mum’s life and to thank St Clare for all they had done for us. We decided to use our talents to host ‘A Concert for Sue’.”

“Mum loved to sing, and she ran a theatre group in Harlow called Theatretrain. We’re a whole family of actors and singers, and I take after Mum too with my own performing. Last year I completed three years in the Les Miserables West End production! ‘A Concert for Sue’ was the perfect way to thank St Clare, and honour and remember our mum.”

“We had so many acts ranging from West End casts, The Royal Academy of Music, family, friends, The Vienna Festival Ballet, comedians, children from the Theatretrain which my mum ran in Harlow – we couldn’t all fit in the theatre! It was a fantastic night, complete with a raffle, and we raised £1,800 for St Clare.”

“Sadly, Mum never got to be there with us for ‘A Concert for Sue,’ but we made sure it went ahead in her honour. I was 25 when Mum died on 17 March 2013, and I am grateful to have had her in my life for as long as I did.”

“The care and attention my mum received within the last few months of her life at St Clare made all the difference in making our journey just that bit easier. I thank St Clare from the bottom of my heart. I am incredibly grateful and I know my mum is, too.”

“That’s why on Sunday 22 April 2018, I will run the London Marathon in memory of Mum and in aid of St Clare Hospice. Running for St Clare is incredibly important and personal to me. It will be so very motivating to know that I am running in memory of my Mum, and to support the vital care and support that St Clare offers to local people every single day.”

“I aim to raise at least £2,000 for St Clare this year. We will be hosting another concert to help raise funds for St Clare called ‘My Fundraising Cabaret for the London Marathon‘. It will take place at Above the Arts Cabaret Club in Leicester Square, with West End performers, on the evening of Sunday 8 April 2018.”

“Please do come and support us. Tickets are available through the website with all proceeds going directly to St Clare. It would be lovely to have your support.”

“It has always been important to me to challenge myself and to be the best version of myself – to be brave and live all that life has to offer. After losing my Mum, I know the value of the phrase ‘life is a gift,’ and how important it is to seize the day.”

“Running the London Marathon is my way of embodying this, for Mum and for St Clare, and I will remember it for the rest of my life.”

– Tamsin


Sponsor Tamsin for London Marathon 2018

If you would like to sponsor Tamsin for her London Marathon challenge, and support St Clare Hospice, please visit her fundraising page at: www.uk.virginmoneygiving.com/TamsinDowsett

If you would like to attend Tamsin’s charity cabaret evening on Sunday 22nd April 2018, please visit: www.stclarehospice.org.uk/event/west-end-cabaret

Ray’s Story

“Dave and I both went to Leventhorpe School in Sawbridgeworth; Dave was in the year above me. There were four of us that really knocked about together; Dave, me, Kieran and Phil. We did a lot together, and we still stayed in touch even after school. I joined the army, so I lived away for a while, but we still stayed in touch and whenever I was home we would go out together.”

“We were really old school friends – friends from secondary school right through – so I guess nearly 20 years. I was Dave’s usher, along with Phil, Kieran and Dave’s brother Steve, who were his best men.”

“Dave and I were never out of touch with each other. Some friendships you dip in and out of, but that was never the case with me and Dave.”

“Dave was such a good man – and a good laugh. We had some cracking laughs together. He was loud! Such a loud character and he was tall and broad. The sort of person you couldn’t help but notice as soon as you walked into a place. We used to call him the ‘foghorn’ because you could hear him for miles! He was just good fun, and he was very hard working, and he was so committed and dedicated to his wife Sophie.”

Ray and Dave with friends

“I remember when I first found out that Dave had cancer. It was September 2015 and I was on holiday in Croatia with my wife Steph, who was pregnant at the time, and I had a phone call from our friend Kieran.”

“I thought it was strange he was calling me when he knew I was abroad, and when he answered he told me to take a seat. Then he just said ‘Dave’s got cancer’. It didn’t really register when he told me – I didn’t really clock it then. It was like he’d told me Dave’s got the flu. Kieran said that Dave had a bad back on holiday and had to come home early. I knew then that it must have been bad because Dave is a tough cookie – he’s not one for moaning at all.”

“It was only when I put the phone down and told my wife that it really hit home. I phoned Dave up and, God bless him, he did actually sound he was carrying it off like he just had flu. He said ‘I’ll be alright, it’s just a bit of cancer’ – that was his mentality. And for me, I thought he would survive on that mentality alone. I thought that would pull him through – the power of the mind. But unfortunately that wasn’t the case.”

“So then Dave was admitted to St Clare in October, just a few short weeks after he had been diagnosed. I tried to get up to St Clare at least three times a week to see him.”

“Sometimes I would just drive him round to McDonalds to have a burger and a crafty cigarette – if that’s what he wanted to do I was happy to help him do it! I said I wouldn’t tell his wife Sophie.”

“I came to see Dave as often as I could at St Clare, even if I just drove down after work for a couple of hours to spend time with him. He wasn’t in a good way, he was on some really strong painkillers, so I would just sit there by his bed – I just needed to spend as much time as possible with him. Even if he wasn’t awake, it was important to me to spend a bit of time with him.”

“What really impressed me about the hospice was everything that goes on in the background. Chatting to the nurses you would realise that they are on the front line – but there is so much support that goes on the background to make it all happen.”

“Then you would also be talking to some of the guys and find out they were actually volunteering. They had full time jobs and would be helping out in the evenings as well. I was just like ‘Wow’. You know, these volunteers have obviously got their own lives to live, probably have children and a husband or wife at home, and other hobbies they could pursue – but they choose to come to St Clare in their own time and devote their own time and effort.”

“I just remember thinking, giving up your time to help other people at a very difficult point in their lives, is a very selfless commitment and an honourable thing to do.”

“The night Dave passed away I was about 10 miles away and I came straight to St Clare. The whole family was here and again I was further impressed by the efforts of the hospice – they couldn’t do enough for us.”

“As soon as I arrived at St Clare they were offering me a cup of tea or something to eat, you know, making a fuss – it was nice.”

“St Clare did so much for everyone, not just for Dave, but for his friends and family as well.”

“That’s where my connection with the hospice really roots from – identifying that level of care and compassion from all the people that work at St Clare. I was so impressed by it all.”

Ray with friends at Dave's wedding

 

“I obviously got upset when Dave died because he was a long term friend, but what really upset me was the fact that Dave and Sophie had only just got married. I just thought, Sophie must be in an absolute world of pain – she’s just married the love of her life, they had just moved into their new house, they were probably planning a family.”

“I remember being at that stage with my wife Steph – just married, planning a family, it was so exciting. You’ve got so much to look forward to and your whole life is in front of you. You’ve got it all planned out in your head – but it never works out that way. To have it all taken away within a matter of weeks, when Dave was just 35 years of age, is just so upsetting.”

“Dave probably had other ideas and ambitions – about starting his own business and raising a young family. He had things he wanted to achieve on a personal level – and it’s just been taken away from him. It’s just cruel.”

“Unfortunately it’s a fact of life that people get cancer and die from it – you can’t always avoid that. But it doesn’t stop it being unfair. That’s what upset me the most; the fact that Dave was young and all that lost opportunity. Dave’s life had so much potential, and so much to give to a young family and his wife – it’s just a very sad scenario.”

“Recently I knew of another young man who came to St Clare and died here. My wife knew him and went to his funeral – he was only in his thirties. It’s another example of the hospice caring for someone.”

“You don’t realise how well known St Clare is – it touches so many people. I mentioned St Clare at work and as soon as you say the name of the Hospice people say ‘it’s such a great place’.”

“My first chance to fundraise for St Clare was when I helped Dave’s wife Sophie when she was organising a Ball. I spoke to a gentleman there who had a ballot place for the 2017 London marathon and he asked me if I wanted it – because he could see it meant more for me to run it for Dave and St Clare. So he gave his place to me! That was my second time running the London Marathon and I raised over £3,000 – and in 2018 I will be running it again with Team St Clare.”

“The first time I ran a marathon was when I was in army. I had to be fit because it’s part of the job and I’d always enjoyed running. I went into work one day and the Sargent Major came up to me and asked me what I was doing at the weekend. He had a place in the Abingdon Marathon and he couldn’t make it any more. I knew I had to say ‘Yes’ or I would lose all credibility – so I said I would run it at three days’ notice! I had only run 5 miles before, so I didn’t know how I could possibly run a marathon, but I did. I ran it in a good time of 4 hours 9 minutes, considering I had done no training. Then I caught the bug for marathon running!”

“I moved on to doing triathlons, which I love. My first triathlon had a sea swim – which people said would be too hard for my first triathlon. But I am an ex-army diver, so it didn’t matter to me. I loved it!”

“When St Clare advertised that they had places for the 2018 London Marathon I decided to apply and fundraise for Dave again. When I went along to the marathon evening event, there was a St Clare runner from last year, Clare Gallagher, who gave a presentation about her 12 challenges in 12 months for St Clare. As soon as I heard her speak about it, I thought, I want to do that! I always think, if someone else has done it, I can do it too. I went home and started planning what challenge I can do each month in 2018.”

Ray with his bike

“I have ended up booking a total of 13 races in 12 months – one a month just wasn’t enough! I am most excited about London Marathon, this will be my third time running it and it’s incredible, but I am also really looking forward to doing the Paris Marathon too. They are both in April, only 2 weeks apart, so I am bit crazy taking on two marathons so close together.”

“I will be running over 250 race miles throughout the year, plus around 1,500 in training miles. I will be finishing with the St Clare 5k Santa Run in Debden in December – which will be a really nice way to round off a year fundraising for St Clare. The challenge will be tough for me, but I just know how much St Clare helped Dave and his wife Sophie, and that will spur me on to complete it.”

– Ray


Sponsor Ray for his 2018 Challenges

If you would like to sponsor Ray for his year of challenges in 2018, and support St Clare Hospice, please visit his fundraising page at: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RayCogan

Russell’s Story

“I met Lisa for the first time on my birthday, when I was out with friends in London. I had moved up from Bournemouth because I just had this feeling that I should move to London to find the person I was going to marry. I just knew I had to be in London! Lisa and I didn’t see each other again until a few months later. A friend of mine said to me ‘I’ve met your wife’ and I didn’t know what she was talking about! She said ‘It’s Lisa Adler.’”

“I think that sometimes things happen for a reason, and I am a firm believer in fate.”

“A few months later I was out on a business dinner when sure enough, by chance, Lisa was there with a friend. We talked, and that’s when I asked her out for the first time. And that was the start of it!”

“Lisa was a business woman, working in IT recruitment, and I owned my own business in London. We had only been dating for a week or two when I had to travel abroad to Asia. Whilst I was travelling I was speaking to Lisa by fax! Lisa would send me a fax every morning, and we built our lives from there, always writing to each other.”

“Lisa and I were engaged within four weeks of dating. I knew the very first time that I took her out that I was going to marry her. We were married on 9th May 1993 in the West End in London.”

“When we came back from our honeymoon Lisa carried on with her career, I carried on with my business and everything was going well. On the 18th of January 1996 Lisa gave birth to our son, Marc. We always thought that we were having a daughter and we had girls’ names in mind but we didn’t have boys’ names, so when we were in the hospital I named Marc.”

“It was shortly after giving birth to Marc that Lisa noticed a lump on one of her breasts.”

“Lisa went to her GP to get it checked and they said that it was just a milk gland. In those days breast cancer wasn’t as prominent as it is now. If you have anything like that now I don’t think a GP would say that it is was just milk gland, they would tell you to go and get it checked.”

“Lisa’s mum and I wanted to have the lump checked so we booked her into a surgeon in Harley Street. We made an appointment and he saw us within about 24 hours. The surgeon said he wanted to do a biopsy, and he said he would do it the very next morning.”

“The biopsy was done and the results were available within an hour. Sure enough, just an hour went by, and we were told that Lisa had breast cancer.”

“That was when Lisa’s fight with cancer started. She was just 31 years old. We couldn’t believe it, we were just shell-shocked. Everything changed from then on.”

“We basically lived our life up on Harley Street – we were just backwards and forwards all the time. Lisa had an operation and then radiotherapy and chemotherapy. In the end we knew all the people on the street – it was sad, it was just a whole way of life for us.”

“Soon after Lisa was diagnosed with cancer she started to write. Lisa had this inner strength to write about her battle with cancer. She wanted to write a book to inspire others, so that no one would give up, and just let cancer win. Lisa knew other people going through cancer and she would tell them not to give up.”

“Lisa always said ‘Get up, get ready, get dressed. Stay strong and don’t give in. Just because you’ve got cancer, doesn’t mean it’s the end.’”

“Lisa was about to go into remission from the breast cancer when they found out that she had lung cancer. They said she was very lucky because if they had found it a couple of weeks later it would have been too late. Our son Marc was only a couple of years old by this time.”

“Lisa said that there was no way she was going anywhere. Lisa said ‘I’m not going to let this win – I want to see my son grow up.’ And she did.”

“Lisa believed that if you get yourself up and made the effort; that was half the battle. People didn’t even realise that Lisa had cancer because she always looked so well. She always looked incredible! I remember a doctor coming in to see her in intensive care and Lisa was all made up, the doctor said he had never seen anyone in intensive care look like that! That takes a strong person.”

“Lisa, Marc and I used to travel a lot – Lisa never missed out on anything. Often we would fly back from holiday on the day she was having chemo, and drive straight to the hospital! We would always maximise our time together. Before she came into St Clare Hospice I asked Lisa if there was anywhere she would like me to take her. She said ‘No, I’ve seen everything. I haven’t missed out on anything. I’ve had a good life.’ To me, that was amazing.”

“Lisa was always writing, and campaigning, the whole time she had cancer.”

“About 20 years ago Lisa had an article in the Mirror about her fight against cancer, and she raised thousands for the Helen Rollason cancer charity. Lisa was even interviewed on Sky television because she was campaigning for a particular new cancer treatment to be available for free. You can now have that treatment on the NHS, thanks to Lisa.”

“Lisa was very glitzy and glamorous, and she loved life. She loved anything sparkly! Lisa would always put her make up on, get dressed, and go out and do whatever she wanted to do.”

“Lisa was going through hell but she never let it cancer win. Lisa won. She was happy, never miserable, and I think that’s the reason she lived for so many years after first being diagnosed.”

 

“It was in October 2015 that Lisa was diagnosed with multiple brain tumours. She fell over in the street, and it was because the tumours had affected her balance. Lisa started on radiotherapy again, but it didn’t really work. We had to go to the hospital every day for five weeks. Lisa was admitted on the 1st December 2015 and I remember thinking that I didn’t know if she would even make it to Christmas.”

“Lisa did get a bit better, and she came home. We had a buzzer in the house so that I could hear when Lisa needed help. I was up and down four times a night, which I didn’t mind doing, but it was hard. I knew that if I was in the same position, Lisa would have done the same for me. I loved every bone in her body, everything about her.”

“It was in around February 2016 that we got in touch with St Clare Hospice. A nurse from St Clare came to see us at home and to make an assessment. We decided that we would like to have Hospice at Home care and the nursing assistants used to come four times a day, and a night sitter came overnight.”

“I remember this fantastic Hospice at Home nursing assistant, Kirsty, saying ‘Russell, you have your night’s sleep. Don’t worry about Lisa, I will take care of her.’ I tell you – it was the best night’s sleep I ever had. Kirsty was incredible.”

“It was massive having St Clare there for us. Lisa loved it as well. Everything about St Clare Hospice is amazing. The support; having somebody to talk to. They were there for me, as well as Lisa.”

“Lisa started to have falls at home and things were getting more difficult, so we decided that Lisa should come into the Hospice Inpatient Unit for a few nights. In the end Lisa was in the Hospice for about 3 weeks.”

“I didn’t know what to expect when I came into the Hospice for the first time. But as soon as I walked through the door I thought it was the most incredible place. It was nothing like I imagined it would be.”

“St Clare’s is beautiful – the grounds, the rooms and the garden. Lisa and I would sit out on the patio in the garden together, which was lovely. I think that what St Clare’s does is absolutely incredible.”

“My over-riding memory of St Clare would have to be, that you always had somebody there to talk to. I knew that if I had a problem with anything, I could ask. I didn’t feel like I was alone.”

“St Clare’s was one of the highlights of Lisa’s time in care. St Clare is like an extended member of your family. Everybody that works or volunteers at the Hospice, genuinely cares about what they do and you just love them from the minute you meet them.”

“If someone told me that they don’t ever want to go to a hospice, I would say that it’s nothing like what you expect. It’s an incredible place.”

“Lisa was discharged from St Clare and was admitted to a local private neuro centre. I used to drive up to see her every day. Our son Marc turned 21 years when Lisa was staying there, and she managed to say ‘Happy Birthday’ to him. Lisa was diagnosed with cancer when Marc was just two and a half months old, and she saw him through right to his 21st birthday. When Marc passed his university degree he was able to tell his mum. Lisa was just so proud of him. It was incredible that her strength and love of life meant she could keep her promise to see Marc grow up to be a young man.”

“In the end, Lisa had cancer eleven times. I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody who has survived it that many times. I truly believe that it was Lisa’s strength of character and positivity that led her to survive all those years. Lisa always stayed optimistic and strong, she wanted to be there for our son and me – she lived life to the full. Lisa died on 3 May 2017, she was 52 years old.”

“Lisa was the best thing that ever happened to me. She was amazing. I feel lucky to have met, married, and known her.”

“Now, less a year on, I have published Lisa’s book – as Lisa asked me to. She was writing about her fight with cancer right from the very start – to help and inspire other people with cancer. Lisa wanted her experience to benefit others and to inspire them to stay strong and live life to the full. I hope that her readers will find the book a beacon of hope and that her bravery and glamorous approach to her illness will serve as an inspirational tale to all of us who face obstacles in life.”

-Russell

 


 

Buy Lisa’s Book ‘Cancer and Bling’

Lisa’s inspirational biography ‘Cancer and Bling’ is now being sold in the St Clare Hospice shops and can be ordered online here: https://projectypublishing.com/pre-order-cancer-and-bling/

Lisa’s book is being sold with all profits after publication costs being donated to three charities: St Clare Hospice, Helen Rollason Foundation and Isabel Hospice.

Kim’s Story

“Angela and I first met at a slimming group in Bishop’s Stortford, where we both lived, back in 2011. We got talking to each other, and we just hit it off. I was also part of a running group in Stortford called Girls Go Running, and I persuaded Angela to join me and take up running – and she did! We took up running together to get fit, and to help lose some weight. Like most people, Angela thought ‘I could never run’ but she thought she would give it a go. We started off slowly, and built up, and Angela loved it – she really got into it!”

“The first race that Angela and I ever did together was the St Clare Hospice 10k. That was back in 2013. It had a tough hill at the end – I remember us both swearing as we ran up it!”

“Angela and I used to run with the Girls Go Running group, but you tend to find you gel with one person more than the others, and Angela and I used to arrange our own running meets. We ran a lot together, we had the same interests, and we used to talk all the time we were running. I always say, if you can’t talk when you run, then you are going to fast!”

“Angela and I used to speak on Facebook and it was one evening when, after a few too many rums, that I suggested we sign up for a marathon. I had always wanted to run a marathon before I turned 60, and I was 59 years old at the time, so it was now or never. Angela must have had too much to drink too – because she agreed. We both tried to enter for the London Marathon 2016 and hoped for a ballot place. When we didn’t get one, we both applied for the Manchester marathon instead – and were guaranteed a place. That’s when the realisation of what we had done hit us!”

“Angela and I ran the Manchester Marathon together in April 2016 – just before my 60th birthday in the June.”

“Unfortunately Angela was taken ill at mile 24 and she had to finish in an ambulance – but it was still a great achievement. We had been planning to cross the line together, and celebrate together, so it was an anti-climax – but Angela was alright and she got two medals and two t-shirts out of it! One from the ambulance crew, and one from the marshals at the finish line. We said we would never run a marathon again, but by the time we reached the M25 we were already going online and signing up for the next one! We booked in to do the Liverpool marathon in 2017.”

Angela and Kim complete the Manchester Marathon

“The other thing on my pre-60 list of things to do, was to visit Ireland. Angela was Northern Irish, from Comber, Co. Down, and so in the September we went for a weekend there with another friend. We had an incredible time, with Angela showing us round Belfast, learning all about the Troubles, and visiting the Giants Causeway.”

“It wasn’t until January 2017 when Angela started getting pains in her hip. We just put it down to a running injury – and the doctors thought the same and sent her for physio. But she was getting worse and worse and by Easter she was in so much pain.”

“Then on my husband’s birthday, 16th May, Angela went to get the results of all the tests she had been having. Angela just messaged me and said ‘It’s cancer’. I just couldn’t believe it.”

“From then, it just went so quickly. I visited Angela in hospital five days later, but then I couldn’t get hold of her. I was told she had been discharged, and so I went to her house with some flowers, but I still didn’t hear from her which I thought was odd.”

“Then one Friday night when I was driving home from work I got a call from Angela. She sounded so relieved. Angela said, ‘I’m in St Clare’s.’”

“Angela said she was so relieved to be at St Clare’s and that I should come up and see her.”

“I came up to the hospice that evening and she looked so relieved. That’s the only way I can describe it. It was like the whole weight had been lifted off her. And she said to me ‘I can’t tell you how nice it is here Kim, nothing is too much trouble. I feel safe.’”

“That was what was so important. Angela was in a lot of pain in the hospital, but she knew what once she was at St Clare they would keep her pain under control. Angela felt safe, she knew she wasn’t going to be in pain anymore, and she’d accepted what was going to happen to her. And she couldn’t have been in a better place.”

“To see Angela safe and relieved was great. She never told me how long she had, but she told me in so many words that she wasn’t going to get any better.”

“Angela was very practical – a very practical person. She put everything right before she went, everything that was important to her. Angela was very matter of fact, she wasn’t a wishy-washy person, and she didn’t cry or anything with me.”

“Angela was more concerned with what other people were feeling. I have never met anybody as brave, ever.”

“It’s not doom and gloom at St Clare at all, people are smiling and friendly. They are making the best of the time people have got left. St Clare make the best of the days that people have got left – that was the impression I got as soon as I walked through the doors.”

“The way the nurses talked to Angela was great. She said to me, if she woke up in the middle of the night and wanted something to eat, they would go and make it for her. Angela said it was amazing.”

“It isn’t what you expect a hospice to be like. You think ‘Hospice – it’s going to be awful. Everyone is going to be crying.’ And yes, there must be times when people die and there is crying, but on the whole it is a cheerful place.”

“The Friday before she passed Angela had an Indian take away with her sisters-in-law and friends, everyone in her room, gathered round. She loved an Indian!”

“All the girls came in for a Friday night take away – and that sums up St Clare. They make it normal for people. They allow people to enjoy the things they have always loved.”

“Angela couldn’t eat very much at the time but she just enjoyed the whole experience – managing to eat a little of her favourite curry and enjoying the smells. And it meant she got to have one last girls’ night.”

“Angela told me about the amazing bubble bath she had, in a Jacuzzi with special lights and everything. She said it was lovely. It’s things like that which make all the difference, and make people feel special at that time in their lives. The staff at the hospice have the time, and the number of staff, and the equipment, to be able to give that special care. That’s the nicest thing about the hospice.”

“I came to see Angela on the Sunday and she asked me if I would knit a jumper for her son. I said of course and the next day I went straight out to buy the wool and start knitting it for him. I was knitting like mad on the Monday night and sent Angela a photo of what I had done so far. I thought she would be asleep but she replied straight away to say it looked great. I messaged to say goodnight, sleep tight, and that was the last time I spoke to her. Angela went into a coma the next day.”

“I have knitted the jumper, but I have got to the point where I can’t sew it up and complete it – because then it would be over. I think it’s psychological. The running is like that as well. I said to Angela that I didn’t want to run with anyone else, but she said I should.”

“Angela asked me to raise money for the hospice. I said of course I would do – I would fundraise in her name. I told her I would run the London Marathon for her – she said it was too far but I told her not to worry about that. She also asked me to get as many of the girls as possible from the Girls Go Running in Stortford to do the St Clare 10k in April. They have all agreed to do it if they can, so we are expecting a really big turnout on 8th April.”

Girls Go Running group photo

 

“Angela passed on 14th June 2017 – having been diagnosed with cancer on 15th May. It was such a short time, just four weeks. Angela just didn’t deserve it, not at 52 years old. She really didn’t deserve it – but then, who does?”

“Cancer touches so many people – every family. And so many local families lives are touched by St Clare at some point. It is just so good that there is somewhere like St Clare.”

“To have someone to care for Angela when she was so ill, and somewhere that her family could come and know that she was being well cared for, just meant so much. To know what Angela was safe, and was not in pain, I think it helped the whole family – not just Angela.”

“So, that’s why I am raising money and running a marathon – because you gave Angela the best possible last days she could have – and to see the relief on her face when she was in St Clare’s was amazing.”

“Angela and I had both entered the ballot to run the London Marathon 2018. I obviously don’t know if Angela got in or not – she passed before the places were sent out. So I will be running London for Angela. I am going to have Angela’s name on my top, as well as my name. So she is with me all the way round.”

“Although Angela won’t be crossing the line with me physically, she will mentally cross it with me.”

“So, I will do my best to raise as much as I can for the hospice – because that’s what Angela asked me to do. She knew I would as well – she knows what I am like with fundraising! I am a doer. We have already held a quiz night fundraiser in Angela’s name, and a curry night. I am planning another quiz and an event at Harlow Dogs to raise funds.”

“I am challenging myself to raise £5,000 from September 2017 to September 2018 – I know I will keep going, but that is my goal at first.”

“The thing is, when someone goes through what Angela went through, you feel like you want to do something. I felt like there should have been something I could do to help Angela – but there was nothing I could do. You feel so helpless. So the thing I can do is fundraise.”

– Kim


Sponsor Kim for London Marathon 2018

If you would like to sponsor Kim for her London Marathon challenge, and support St Clare Hospice, please visit her fundraising page at:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/kim-bird4 

June’s Story

“Derrick and I met in 1959 when he was 22 and I was 20 years old. We met, of all places, in a record shop in London! He worked in his friend’s record shop, and I went in and met him. A couple of weeks later we went on a day trip together – and that was it, we were together from then on! We were married in London on 1st October 1960 and his friend from the record shop was his best man! I am still friends with him to this day – a lifetime later.”

“Derrick moved out to Harlow when his job moved, and I went with him in October 1960. We have lived in Harlow the whole time. That is where our three sons were born, and we now have three grandchildren and our lovely great-granddaughter too.”

“I hadn’t experienced St Clare’s care myself, until my lovely husband Derrick was diagnosed with prostate cancer in February 2013. Derrick went to his GP with a pain in his hip, but it turned out that he had cancer. It had already spread to Derrick’s bones, and they tried to give him Chemotherapy but he wasn’t strong enough and it wasn’t working. It was through Derrick’s oncologist that we were referred to St Clare Hospice, and we received a visit from Gill – one of the clinical nurse specialists.”

“It was in 2013 when we first met Gill, the St Clare nurse, she was so dedicated and supportive – without Gill we would have been floundering.”

“Gill came and visited Derrick and I at our home in Harlow. She got all the paperwork sorted for us, so Derrick could get a disabled badge. Gill helped to get everything that we needed in place, and if we needed any advice she was always there for us.”

“Gill advised us what medication Derrick needed, and how to take it. I knew that if I needed her, she would always be on the end of the phone.”

“St Clare used to phone us to check how Derrick was doing – so we knew that we weren’t left on our own. I knew that if I said ‘please come’ – she would have been there, just like that.”

“In the end, Derrick had a fall and broke his hip, and he was in the hospital recovering from the operation. He became poorly and in the end he couldn’t be moved to St Clare Hospice because it was too dangerous for him to travel. Derrick passed away in February 2016 at the age of 79 years – after we had been together for 57 years.”

“Derrick and I had such fun times together – even when he was ill, he laughed all the time. He wouldn’t let the cancer get him down.”

 

“Derrick had been in the Parachute Regiment and he loved planes, so he used to volunteer at Duxford museum. He also used to help to sell poppies for Remembrance Sunday at the Harvey Centre in Harlow. On our 25th wedding anniversary, Derrick arranged for us to go up in a Dakota and fly over Duxford – just Derrick, I and the pilot. It was amazing. Volunteers from Duxford even came down to Derrick’s funeral, it was lovely to have them there.”

“Even when Derrick was poorly he travelled miles to air shows and museums. We even went on holiday to Italy, and visited Austria in the snow! Derrick had just been diagnosed with cancer, but we had the holiday booked, so we decided to still go. He so wanted to go to Austria in the snow – so we did!”

“You have to all these things on your bucket list – because you never know when these things will happen.”

“We had wonderful times together. We were so young when we met, and he was the only love I ever had. 57 years together is a very long time – we will remember him forever.”

“I became a St Clare Lottery player back in about 2003 – when someone came to my door at my home in Harlow and asked if I would like to play. Having lived in Harlow for over 50 years, you hear about people who need St Clare’s care, and I had a friend whose Dad had been cared for at St Clare – so I knew it was a good cause.”

“I signed up to play one line a week, and see my payment each quarter as a donation to the work of the hospice. I certainly never expected to win anything!”

“Over the years I have won £10 a couple of times, but I have always just donated it back to the Hospice. I think that you need it more than I do.”

“I couldn’t believe it when I got the call from St Clare’s to say that I had won the Lottery rollover. It was a good job they told me to sit down to hear the news! I am still in shock that I have won the rollover.”

“I thought it was a joke a first. Then I looked over at a photo of Derrick, smiling at me, and I started crying. I still can’t believe it!”

“My plan with the winnings is to have a new kitchen fitted. Derrick and I had talked about a new kitchen, and I had been saving up to change the cupboards, but now I can get the whole kitchen refitted. I am even going to treat myself to a new oven. This will be the kitchen that St Clare built! It is absolutely wonderful to be able to do it.”

“I am also going to make a donation to St Clare, and to donate to have a leaf on the Memory Tree for Derrick. The Memory Tree is so beautiful – I love the bronze colour of the leaves – they are like autumn leaves. The autumn is so special to me and Derrick because we met and were married in October. It will be a lovely tribute for him.”

“I will carry on playing the Lottery for St Clare because it is such a good cause. You can see the difference that playing the Lottery makes to real families – and it is such a great way to support the work of the hospice.”

– June

 

Jennifer’s Story

“I was diagnosed with lung disease in 2015 and, although it’s not classed as ‘terminal’, they call it ‘life-limiting’ – because it is going to shorten my life, but by how much, nobody knows. So although I live as ‘normal’ a life as possible, it’s never going to be 100% normal or even near. There’s no cure.”

“People think you have to have a terminal illness to come to St Clare, but that’s not true. You have to have an illness that affects your life, and the social aspect of your life.”

“My condition means that I get breathless and puffed out, and can’t breathe a lot of the time. I use a wheelchair when I’m outside the house. But on the whole I manage very well and am very independent, I like to get about.”

“When I was first diagnosed, they told me I had lung cancer. I had breast cancer back in 2002 and they thought it might have been secondary lung cancer. I was put on a high dose of steroids and started to pile on weight. For six months I was getting worse and worse, I couldn’t breathe – I couldn’t even hold a conversation. But there was a lot of support for me, cancer nurses were visiting me at home and making assessments. Eventually they did an open lung biopsy and they discovered that I didn’t have cancer, but an incurable lung disease instead. Suddenly all the help at vanished. Now that I didn’t have cancer, I wasn’t eligible for the help.”

“I was still being visited at home by the District Nurse who came to change the dressing on my biopsy wound, and I told her that I just felt so desperately lonely and abandoned.”

“I was sitting there with this horrible illness, and no help. I had loads of offers of help and care, and then when it wasn’t one illness, I was just dropped.”

“The district nurse suggested that she refer me to St Clare Hospice for help, and I wasn’t sure that it was the right place for me. But she explained that I could come to the hospice for day therapy, and to talk about my problems, and to find extra help.”

“I didn’t think for one minute that I would be accepted, because I didn’t think I had the right kind of illness. But I was invited a long to meet one of the nurses at St Clare for a chat and an assessment.”

“The first time I came to the Hospice I spoke to Claire, one of the senior nurses, and we spoke for a long time. Claire told me about the sort of help that would be on offer as an outpatient, and I was amazed.”

“I just couldn’t believe it. Before coming to St Clare, I felt that there was no hope. And I felt so alone. Just coming in to speak to the nurse at St Clare, made me like they had picked me up. I felt loved, and wanted, and cared for.”

“A few weeks later I was invited to come to the Hospice to attend a Day Therapy group.”

“The support I received was absolutely incredible. I looked forward to the group every week.”

“I would build up to it each week, just looking forward to the next session. Meeting the other ladies in the group was just such a support. You could say anything you liked, and you knew nobody would speak of it outside of the group. We could share our problems, and fears and worries – and the group would offer practical help, physical help, emotional support – offering to meet up outside of the group as well.”

“Nobody knew what was wrong with anybody in that group. What was wrong with you did not matter. What mattered was that everybody felt the same.”

“The emotional impact of finding out that you have a condition that cannot be cured is the same for everybody. The sheer horror – the loneliness and the feeling that you are on your own – is the same.”

“As well as the social aspect, and emotional support, there was also all the advice and care that St Clare gave me.”

“When I come to Day Therapy I know I can also speak to one of the nurses about my symptoms or how I am feeling. One time I came to a session with a chesty cough and I was really struggling. They arranged for one of the Doctors to come and see me, and he assessed me and gave me advice for how to manage it.”

“At St Clare, everything you need is in one place. And everything they do is centred around you, and your needs. It’s the sense of belonging that is so special, and just knowing that their support is always going to be there.”

“I really feel, and I can say this with all honesty, that if I hadn’t have been picked up by St Clare when I was, I wouldn’t be alive now.”

“I was so low – I could see no future. I could see nothing, nothing ahead at all. All I could feel was fear and loneliness. St Clare really did save my life. It really is true.”

“As well as the Day Therapy groups, I also took part in the creative sessions – doing both art and writing.”

“In the creative sessions you literally forget why you are at the Hospice. You just know that you are having fun, and getting messy with the paints! For those two hours you just completely forget everything else. I don’t know what’s wrong with anyone else in that room, and it’s not that I’m not interested, it’s just that it’s not important.”

“We are all just in the art room enjoying ourselves, exchanging views and ideas in fun surroundings – completely forgetting everything else that is going on in our lives for that moment.”

“When I am at home, I know I have my trouble and strife – and for the entire day I am reminded that I am not well. Just getting up to make a cup of tea is a reminder that I can’t breathe very well, I can’t move very well. But at St Clare, I am pampered! For the two hours I spend at St Clare, I just completely forget about it all. It is just so nice to switch off and relax – which is not easy to do.”

“I go to the creative classes and I can just sit there and create! I may not be able to make a work of art – but I thoroughly enjoy making it. It’s the process that matters. It is about mentally switching off from your illness. And I think that is what’s important.”

“Through the creative writing group I became able to write down a lot of my thoughts, and fears – to put pen to paper. I find myself writing at home as well – I actually ended up writing a few poems about how angry I felt, about my lot in life and just writing it down was very therapeutic. Eventually you get a flow of writing going, and it was only because of coming to the creative writing group that I was able to sit and write down my thoughts.”

“It was like coming to the creative writing group had given me permission, personal permission, to be creative in my writing and to use it to open up about my feelings and emotions.”

“Then you take that home with you, and carry on writing about your feelings and emotions. It is like the floodgates have opened – and it’s great!”

“It has actually started me off writing stories for my grandchildren about my parents, my Dad and Mum and Nan’s life. It’s like it has opened the door for me – and helped me to think that it is ok to write like that.”

“Coming to the creative sessions opens up a portion of you that you didn’t know was there.”

“I have always been creative, and I have always loved art, and although I’m not good at drawing, that really doesn’t matter. It’s like it’s gives you the permission to have a bash at it, to have a go. Whereas before I didn’t feel that I could do that. It doesn’t matter that my spelling isn’t great, or my grammar, as long as I am getting out on to the paper, what I feel. And that might be in writing, or typing or painting or drawing.”

“St Clare helped me to re-find that part of myself that had been locked away because of the illness.”

“Sometimes when you are ill, you feel like you are not able to be yourself. All you are able to be is your illness. You become consumed with being ‘an illness’ and you stop being ‘a person’.”

“For the first 10 months of having lung disease, I was a patient, I wasn’t me. I was somebody who couldn’t breathe. So I sat indoors. Struggling to get up and make a cup of tea, struggling to go out. I felt that I couldn’t do things because of my lung disease.”

“Illness takes away your independence. You become the illness that you have. And you start to think that is all you’re capable of. But St Clare has shown me that I am still me. Now I think I can do this. It sounds like a cliché, but it is so true – St Clare saved my life.”

“I have always been a very positive person, but I will admit, when I was diagnosed, I wallowed in my own self pity. I just couldn’t care less about myself. I couldn’t see the point in anything, because I just thought ‘You’re dying’.”

“Now, I don’t feel like that at all. Now, I feel like there is every point. I’ve got my positivity back. I’m back! I have turned my illness on its head. And I owe a huge debt of thanks to St Clare for that. I owe St Clare everything, seriously, everything.”

 “You don’t have to be dying to come to St Clare. You need to come when you are diagnosed – the moment you are told that you have a life limiting condition that isn’t going away. So that they can help to counsel you through your diagnosis. And help you to live your life.”

“I have a debt of thanks to St Clare. I will do everything I can to tell everybody about St Clare. I can’t raise money very well – but I can raise awareness. And tell people how much St Clare can help them. I hope that by sharing my story, it will encourage more people to come to St Clare and to find out what they can do for you.”

Jennifer

Lauren’s Story

“It was Christmas 2013 when our family first came into contact with St Clare Hospice. Although there is never a nice time for anyone to have to make those decisions about coming to a hospice, the fact that it was during the festive season seemed to make it all that bit harder.”

“Yet, when we arrived at St Clare, that huge anxiety we had was overcome with a feeling of being at home.”

“My father, Paul, started to become unwell and was admitted to hospital in August 2013. One month later after many tests, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and given five months to live. Dad was just 44 years old.”

“We received care from our local hospital, who decided after a few weeks of chemotherapy it was time to move on to radiotherapy as the cancer had spread to Dad’s brain. It was such an emotional and stressful time for all of us as Dad’s condition began to deteriorate, and witnessing that was traumatic for everyone.”

“When Dad was given two weeks to live, it was decided that coming to St Clare would be his best option. I wasn’t sure what to expect the first time I visited Dad at the hospice. I went with my two younger brothers on Boxing Day, and I remember how we were all so anxious!”

“When we arrived, it was just like being at home – Dad was so smiley and happy, but most importantly he was settled and comfortable, without any pain.”

“We always saw Dad on Boxing Day – every Christmas. It was our family tradition. So we did the same when Dad was at St Clare. We came in to visit him and brought him gifts and goodies from home to open. When we arrived I was so touched to see that Dad had already received a stocking on Christmas Day from St Clare. It made the day so special that Santa had come and left Dad his own stocking the day before.”

“St Clare had given Dad the most beautiful and thoughtful gift to bring the magic of Christmas to him at the hospice; a Christmas stocking filled with lovely gifts just for him.”

“I kept Dad’s stocking, and every year I hang it up at home with ours. St Clare went the extra mile to make that special memory for us, and now my son knows that the stocking was for his Grandad, from St Clare.”

“Over the Christmas period, we had friends and family visit Dad at the hospice all the time – just like it was Dad’s house! It was never any trouble for the staff at St Clare, and we would always feel so welcome. It was beyond amazing in all aspects.”

“Coming to St Clare isn’t just about the amazing care a person receives – it’s so much more than that. Dad and his partner, Mandy, had one last wish that they wanted to see through together, and St Clare facilitated that.”

“Dad and Mandy got married on 9th January 2014 at St Clare Hospice on their Inpatient Unit. St Clare arranged a dress for Mandy, organised cakes, a photographer, and decorations – and let us have as many people as we could fit in the ceremony as possible!”

“We spent the whole day at the hospice to celebrate their wedding and it was just magical. It was truly emotional, but best of all, perfect.”

“The day after, Dad’s condition began to deteriorate further. Family gathered at the hospice all the way from Scotland so we could all be there with him. At one point, there must have been about twenty of us there! We all took up every possible sleeping spot we could find. Not once did the staff nurses bat an eyelid!”

“With all of his family around him, Dad passed away on 13th January 2014.”

“St Clare were really there for all of us. They didn’t just help Dad to feel comfortable and out of pain; they also made it softer for us, and helped us to understand what would happen.”

“They sat through the night with us to make sure we were very clear on what we could expect, which was such a relief. I sat with one nurse for almost an hour discussing if I wanted to be with Dad at the end. I was scared, but she helped me to make my decision and put my mind at ease. Now, I am forever grateful that I was with Dad when he died.”

“The sense of dignity and respect for Dad that we observed from all of the nurses was just truly impeccable. We couldn’t thank them enough for everything they did for him, and for everything they did for the whole family throughout our journey.”

– Lauren