Charlie’s story

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"I’m so grateful that we were able to lean on the support of St Clare. It’s a place where whoever you are, you are shown such great love and respect. Everybody really cared, which was such a gift."

“My identical twin sister, Charlie, was a force of nature. She was full of confidence and never afraid to live her life on her own terms. She shone so brightly and people were always naturally drawn to her. 

“It’s been 10 years since she died aged 38 from cervical cancer, and I feel her absence every day. When Charlie got ill, it was devastating. She’d just had her little girl and was living with her family in an off-grid community in Spain and I remember desperately wanting to fly over and bring her back to the UK to see a doctor. We’d both always been alternative-minded, and she researched and tried everything she could to treat the cancer, but eventually she did come back home for radiotherapy and low dose chemo.  

“Initially, we thought the treatment had worked and she was better. She wanted to get on with her life with her children, but then she started experiencing a lot of pain. It turned out that she wasn’t better after all. The cancer had in fact spread to her lymph nodes and we were informed that there was nothing more that could be done. 

“Growing up, we’d lived just down the road from St Clare’s so were very aware of the Hospice. But when Charlie’s consultant first starting talking to us about palliative care we weren’t open to using the services of the Hospice at all.

“Penny, one of the St Clare Clinical Nurse Specialists, came out to see us. She was so non-judgemental and from the very start we felt like we could tell her anything. That built trust and when the pain eventually became too much to bear, Charlie felt safe to go into the Hospice to see if they could help. 

“We weren’t expecting the Hospice building to be so beautiful; there was so much natural light and it didn’t feel like a hospital or medical setting. We put fairy lights all over her room and we came and went as often as we liked.  

“Charlie had lots of hippy and punk friends but no-one ever once batted an eyelid to seeing someone walk in with a Mohican or pink hair. That was really important to us; that we felt it was a safe space to be.

“Everyone respected Charlie for who she was and nothing was a problem. The staff were so open-minded and the level of care was phenomenal. It’s such a special place. 

“I knew though that Charlie wanted to be at home and she moved in with me. We never talked about her dying because she’d told me that she needed to believe in every cell of her body that she was going to live, even though I knew that was not the reality of our situation. But it was important that she die in a bed that she knew, and I knew that the St Clare team were only ever at the end of the phone if I needed them. That was incredibly important.  

“There was so much love in those final days. We’d all pile into the room with her to eat and sing and laugh. She died a few days after bonfire night and we even left off some indoor fireworks and lit some sparklers.  

“Looking back, I’m so grateful that we were able to lean on the support of St Clare. It’s a place where whoever you are, you are shown such great love and respect. Everybody really cared, which was such a gift.  

“St Clare was there to support us through the toughest times, caring not just for Charlie but for me and our family and friends too. And what’s so special about their care is that they continue to be there for people after their loved one has died for as long as they are needed.  

“Finding special ways of celebrating Charlie’s life helps keep her memory alive and brings me so much comfort, helping me keep putting one foot in front of the other. Charlie’s story didn’t stop when she died, she still lives through me and is in everything I do.”

Emma, Charlie’s twin sister

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