Sophie’s Story

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“Everyone always went out of their way to do special little things for us. One Sunday a nurse set up a table with a little rose on it so that we could have a romantic lunch – it was really cute. It allowed us to just sit together and have some time out of the room.”
Sophie and Dave on their wedding day

Dave and I met in 2011 when I was 23 and he was 30. He was a big guy, over 6 foot tall, and he had been a carpenter since he left school so he was strong and a typical man’s man. He loved the banter of the building site, a good night out with his mates and his favourite TV show was Only Fools and Horses. We got engaged in 2012, had bought a house by 2013, and were married in September 2014. We were just about to celebrate our first wedding anniversary when Dave went to the doctors because he had back ache. Being a carpenter he often had back ache, so we thought he had slipped a disk. It never crossed our mind that it would be something serious.”

“On 28 September 2015 Dave was diagnosed with cancer. They did a scan and when they showed us it, all I could see were these big black spots all the way down his spine. I knew straight away what it was. Dave was told he had a very rare type of thyroid cancer and that there was no treatment for it. It had already spread to his spine, his shoulders, his skull, his lymphnodes and his lungs. Dave was frightened and didn’t know what was going on, it was horrendous.”

“Three weeks after Dave was diagnosed, a St Clare Clinical Nurse Specialist called Christine White came to our house. Chris came to visit us to talk about Dave’s medication and to see how she could help. She also just sat and listened to what Dave and I had to say. Chris made us feel like we had control again and she knew how to make things happen.”

“I remember her saying: ‘Right, this is what we are going to do. I’m going to apply for this for you, we are going to give you these tablets, and I’ll be in touch with your doctor.’ As she walked away Dave and I instantly just thought ‘thank goodness someone is on our side’. Before Chris came along we felt like we had been banging our heads against a brick wall. Chris just knew how to sort things out for us.”

“Over the next few weeks Dave’s pain grew worse. He would have spasms of severe pain for a few minutes and then be completely normal again – and be back to doing the washing or putting the hoover round. But the pain was so terrible when it came over him. It was then that Chris suggested coming in to St Clare for pain management, so that Dave could get his symptoms under control.”

“When I first mentioned the idea of a hospice to Dave he was adamant he didn’t want to go. I remember him saying ‘It’s going to be full of old people – full of Bettys and Veras – and I’m not doing that.’ Eventually he agreed to come in to St Clare and ironically, the first person we met at the desk was a volunteer called Betty! She was lovely but we couldn’t help but laugh.”

“I never thought we would need a place like St Clare and I didn’t even know it existed before Dave was diagnosed. I just hope that by sharing my story, if just one other person who is going through a hard time realises St Clare can help them, it will be worth it.”

“You never think you are going to be put in this situation – especially when you are a young person. But just knowing that there is a place like St Clare where you can get help when you need it, means so much.”

Dave

“Originally we thought that we would be here for 3 or 4 days but Dave ended up celebrating his 35th birthday at St Clare. We really wanted to do something to celebrate so I had arranged for us to spend the weekend in Suffolk by the seaside, at a place Aldeburgh. The nurses said that they would keep the bed open for us for when we returned. I was so worried about taking Dave away on my own – he had so much medication to take and I was anxious about getting it wrong.”

“But one of the nurses sat me down and showed me all the medication that Dave would need to take. She talked me through a chart so that I knew what medication to give him and at what time. After that conversation I was like, ‘okay I can do this!’ I just couldn’t have done it without her. I would have just cancelled the trip. But we went away for the weekend and Dave absolutely adored it. In the mornings he was out walking along the beach. It was so nice for him to clear his head.”

“The whole time Dave was in St Clare’s I stayed with him. That hadn’t been our intention but after the first night apart we changed our minds – we wanted to be together. So St Clare became my home for 4 weeks in the end. After a few nights I wasn’t at all embarrassed to walk around in my pyjamas while I was getting ready for bed!”

“It was lovely that we could do little things like make our own dinner in the kitchen. It gives you a little bit of normality. Our little dog Poppy even came and stayed over on firework night because she was scared of the noise. We loved having her stay.”

“I never, ever felt like Dave was just a patient. Everyone would always say ‘Hi Dave, Hi Sophie, how are you?’ They knew us, they knew my mum and dad, they knew Dave’s dad. Both my sisters would come in and the nurses would make a big fuss over them because they were my sisters.”

“Everyone always went out of their way to do special little things for us. One Sunday a nurse set up a table with a little rose on it so that we could have a romantic lunch – it was really cute. It allowed us to just sit together and have some time out of the room.”

“The chef, Ed, loved Dave. He would come round and ask what he fancied that day. One Sunday morning he had made Dave a massive breakfast, he had requested ‘double everything’. So he ate a huge fried breakfast and ate my toast as well. That was the last meal he ate. My mum said that it was to last him through his journey.”

“Dave died on 25 November 2015. It was only 7 weeks after we first went to the doctors. It wasn’t part of our plan. St Clare was there for us when we needed them, and continue to be, and I will always be grateful for that.”

– Sophie

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