“When I was told my kidney cancer had come back, and it was now at stage four, I was absolutely devastated. I went straight into a deep depression because I really thought I had beaten this horrible disease. I told my family, but I never really told them how I was feeling inside.
“I was so scared; I had been handed a death sentence. I was constantly just bursting into tears, thinking I would never see my grandchildren grow up.
“I think, at this point, I knew I could not cope with these feelings on my own, so I went to see my GP and she could see how depressed I was. She suggested I should contact St Clare Hospice as she thought this would help me.
“But just hearing the word hospice just panicked me even more and I thought my illness must be even worse than I thought! I thought a hospice was a place where you go to die and are looked after by old ladies until the end.
“My GP called them and made arrangements to have a home visit by a social worker to come and assess me.
“When I opened the door to her, I was greeted with the warmest smile and a hug. It was like meeting an old friend, so she put me at ease from the start.
“We spoke for ages, never once feeling rushed, and she could see I was not in a good place. She invited me to come along to have a look around the Hospice.
“As I entered the building I was surprised that it was not the cold dingy place that I thought it would be. It was bright, clean and warm and I was greeted warmly by the reception staff. Then I met up with Michele, the social worker, who gave me a welcoming hug and started to show me round.
“We went into one of the bedrooms, which again was bright and clean, with an on suite and a lovely patio area, that looked out onto the beautiful gardens. So very peaceful. Michele was telling me there’s no restriction on visiting times and you can even take pets in, that must be a great comfort to some.
“We then went to the Day Therapy area, where she told me about all the things that go on there. You can have a full massage, or a foot massage in a dark scented room, with soft music playing. It’s wonderful!
“Then there are group sessions where you can talk about your feelings, with others who understand how you feel. I said I would come along and give it all a try. And I am so glad I did!
“I have been going to the group sessions for eight weeks now, and I enjoy every minute of it. As a man, we are not very good at showing how we feel inside, but at the group you can laugh, cry and talk about the things that really worry you, without being judged in any way at all.
“I always come out feeling inspired and I learn something new each time. So now, when I enter the building it feels like someone is giving me a great big hug and I feel safe. Each and everyone of the staff are warm and friendly, and most of all show great empathy and understanding.
“Now I think it’s not a place to just go and die, it’s a place to come to terms with your illness and live your life in the best possible way.