Denise’s story

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"Before her illness, my daughter Charlotte was just like any other teenager."
Mum and daughter wearing Christmas hat smiling to camera

“Charlotte took a legal secretarial course when she left school, and was thrilled when she got a job as an office junior. She learned to drive and got her first car – a little red one that she decorated like a ladybird, with black spots and eyelashes on the headlamps.”

“However, everything changed in March 2013. She’d lost a bit of weight and then one day at work she found she was struggling to breathe. After tests and more tests, the diagnosis finally came through. Charlotte had liver cancer.”

“She went to London for chemotherapy and it seemed to be going well until she slipped into a coma, which she went in and out of several times. Charlotte really was very poorly indeed.”

“We needed to find somewhere for her to go that was close by, but I didn’t even want to think about the ‘H’ word. It seems silly now, but I’d never set foot in a hospice before, and so I didn’t really know what they were all about.”

“My sister Sue, who’d been such a great support to us all, got in touch with St Clare and came to look around. Afterwards, she got straight on the phone and said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s lovely!’ and, you know, it really is. We were so lucky they had a bed for her; I just don’t know what we would have done without them.”

“Everything was so bright and cheerful there that it was as if Charlotte couldn’t help but feel a bit better. On the first day, one of the nurses came into her room to see if she wanted any breakfast. Charlotte sat up and said, ‘Do you have bacon? And eggs? And mushrooms?’ It was so lovely to see her tucking into a fry-up and it was so typical of St Clare to make it just for her.”

“It was coming up to Christmas and we were asked what our plans were. Charlotte was so up and down with the cancer that none of us felt able to look much beyond the next day. But they said, ‘If you’re going to be here, we’d like to do something for you’. And, as ever, the wonderful nurses were true to their word.”

“They arranged for Charlotte to come home for a few hours, so she could spend a bit of the run up to Christmas in the home she knew and loved. My husband Rob put the tree up and she watched a DVD on the sofa with her sister, Vicky. She was very tired, but it was lovely.”

“We were at St Clare on Christmas Day itself, and when we woke up we both had a Christmas stocking. It was such a sweet touch and I’ll never forget the look on Charlotte’s face – she was thrilled! She kept saying, ‘It’s Christmas! It’s Christmas!’ All the family came and we had a mass present-opening session in her room, with all the paper stuffed in bin bags just like at home.”

“The kind nurses had arranged for us all to have Christmas lunch in the Sanctuary. Charlotte sat at the table in her wheelchair to start with because she wanted to eat her turkey with the rest of us. But later, when she got tired, the nurses wheeled in her bed so she could lie down and doze if she needed to.”

“Later, we played games and ate turkey sandwiches and watched telly, just like we would at home. St Clare is that kind of place – it’s as much like home as they can make it. If they can do something to help the patients and their families – and they have the funds to do so – they will. The things they do go above and beyond; the nurses are fantastic, so caring and compassionate.”

“Considering it was a challenging time for us all, it was a lovely Christmas Day. This year we’ll be at home, but Charlotte won’t be there. Although she improved enough to come home for a few months, with the support of St Clare’s Hospice at Home team, the cancer got worse. Charlotte died at St Clare Hospice on June 25, 2014. She was only 20 years old.”

“My dad, Maurice, who had cancer too, also died at St Clare just three weeks later on July 17. Dad and Charlotte had always been close. She was his eldest grandchild and they even shared the same birthday.”

“Christmas won’t be the same without Dad and Charlotte, but we’ll never forget that last Christmas and how special it was for our family. We’ll always have those memories and I’ll treasure them forever. We were so lucky to have been looked after by St Clare Hospice and I want everyone who needs their help to receive it.”

– Denise

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