Laura’s story

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“Being able to access St Clare’s care and support helped Mum to relax and feel safe.  I remember the sun was coming through the windows in the room – it was like a moment in a movie! It was such a ‘Mum,’ moment. She was just shining. I realised then that St Clare was truly where she needed to be.”

Mum is everything to me. She is my best friend, my sister, and my mum all in one. We shared everything, and did everything together. She truly is my world, and I could never have imagined being able to live without her.”

“It was just before we went on holiday in July 2017 that my Mum, Letitia (or Teedie, which is her nickname) kept complaining of backache. She had never really had backache before, so we just assumed it was something the osteopath could sort out for her.”

“Over the holiday, she struggled to do the kinds of activities that she loved doing. She was always on the go and loved to be active. I knew then that as soon as we got back from holiday we needed to sort it out. We had also noticed a little lump on the side of her neck, but never in a million years did we think the two things could be linked. We just thought we’d keep an eye on it for the time being.”

“Soon after we got back from holiday, Mum just turned to me and said she needed to go A&E because she was in too much pain with her back.”

“Mum always hated fuss – she would fuss over everyone else but never worry about herself.”

“We took Mum to A&E and she was admitted to hospital immediately. During her stay, the Doctors took a biopsy of the lump on Mum’s neck. While we waited for the results, we were able to take Mum home and care for her ourselves. We knew that things seemed serious, but at this point, none of us really knew how poorly Mum was.”

“It was in the August that we received the test results from Mum’s biopsy. When we heard the results, we were all so shocked. It was cancer. Mum’s cancer was in her bile duct, which can be really difficult to spot. It was the lump on her neck that helped the specialists find it.”

“As the news set in, we were all absolutely distraught. You never think that cancer will ‘happen’ to your family, or the person who is closest to you, but this was the reality we now all had to face.”

“In mid-August, we visited the Macmillan part of the hospital and was told how bad Mum’s cancer really was. They couldn’t guarantee how long she would live for, but they said it was a matter of weeks.”

“For me, it was Mum’s moment, and her choice to make about what treatment she wanted. Whatever she decided, we were going to support her through it and be there for her.”

“We hoped to empower Mum to make her own choices and decisions about her care and treatment. She had always supported her family and been there for all of us, and now it was our time to do the same for her.”

“I had to be strong for Mum. There were a lot of times that I didn’t cry, or show how scared or upset I really was. I was so determined to give Mum the best care I could.”

“We continued to care for Mum at home, doing everything we could to make sure she was as comfortable as she could be. At the time it felt so unorganised, with the whole thing being ‘sprung’ upon us.”

“Mum had expressed to me many times before that she didn’t want to be in the hospital. But one day, she asked me if she could go to St Clare Hospice.”

“Mum had mentioned St Clare before, and I knew my Uncle had stayed there when he died, and we had done the Midnight Walk event in his memory.”

“Still, I just didn’t understand why she would want to come to a hospice.”
Me and Mum taking part in St Clare’s Midnight Walk in memory of my Uncle, her brother

“But Mum had seen the care that St Clare had given my uncle – her brother. She felt safe there. I contacted St Clare to find out if there was any space for her on the Inpatient Unit, and a day or so later they called us and asked if we were free the next day to come in at lunchtime.”

 

“When I came through the door of St Clare, I instantly realised why she wanted to be here. The atmosphere is almost indescribable. I felt better straight away without really knowing why! It was like a little spot of magic being sprinkled on me as I came through the door.”

“I instantly realised that everyone was so lovely – there was not one person that I didn’t get along with at the hospice. They were different from other people – caring was their job, but they really did care about Mum and the family.”

“When Mum entered the Inpatient Unit she got to see the room my uncle stayed in, which I think touched her and made her feel comfortable. She was shown to her own little ‘hotel room’ at St Clare, complete with an en-suite bathroom. As soon as I saw where she’d be staying, it just felt right. The room was perfect.”

“For so long I had felt like I couldn’t leave my Mum in any situation without me looking after her and making sure she was okay. However, at St Clare, I felt like I could.”

“It was such a difficult time for all of us, but coming to St Clare meant that there were times that made it all a bit more bearable. Things like seeing Mum sit in the fresh air in the hospice gardens on a lovely sunny day, having a prawn sandwich that she enjoyed, and seeing my family all around her.”

“One of the best things about staying on the Inpatient Unit were the Crafternoon sessions they held in the family room.”

“Crafts were always something that we enjoyed together, and although Mum only got to attend one, I saw a change in her that made me realise what a difference the care at St Clare had made. All the family could take part too, which I think it helped to give Mum peace of mind – knowing that her family was looked after helped her to be able to relax.”

“Mum had the chance to do something that she really loved, and she clearly felt so comfortable, completely being herself. She was only painting some little dots on a glass, but I could see she was in awe – so happy. It reminded me of all the crafts we had done together when I was younger.”

“Being able to access St Clare’s care and support helped Mum to relax and feel safe.  I remember the sun was coming through the windows in the room – it was like a moment in a movie! It was such a ‘Mum,’ moment. She was just shining. I realised then that St Clare was truly where she needed to be.”

“I loved knowing that I could stay with Mum at St Clare if I wanted to. When I asked what time I had to leave, and the staff said I didn’t have to, it was a really uplifting feeling. But, in the end, I didn’t feel like I needed to stay 24/7.”

“I knew she was in safe hands at St Clare. She just ‘fit in’ really well. It really was like she was meant to be there. I trusted the staff with my Mum – and I felt comfortable. I felt like I was able to be her daughter again – rather than her carer.”

“The nursing staff at St Clare would do anything for Mum. Anything she needed or wanted, they would get it for her. You could have asked for caviar for dinner, or for them to dance the conga – they probably would have! They took her in like a family member of their own.”

“The care went beyond just medication and having your food sorted. The nurses even offered to paint Mum’s nails, shave her legs and do her makeup! I thought they were joking at first but they were genuinely serious – the care at St Clare is so much more than you think it will be. They would make special meals for her based on whatever she fancied or could have that day.”

“St Clare gave Mum choices to make for herself, and never forced her to do anything she didn’t want to do.”

“One of the most important things about Mum’s stay, for me, is that I felt supported as well. The staff at St Clare could tell that I really needed help. They relieved me of being there for my Mum when I needed to go home, or even take a 5-minute breather to wash it all away for a moment. They’d give her a little cuddle and reassure her, or put a blanket around her, going above and beyond to make sure she was okay. It was little things like that which made a huge difference.”

“I think that sometimes when you see someone who is really poorly, you can naturally feel very sympathetic and sorry for them, but it came to a point where I didn’t feel that for my Mum anymore because I knew she was cared for.”

“St Clare allowed me to look at her and just see my mother again.”

“I just felt what I can only describe as ‘love’. It was the fact that the nursing staff were going the extra mile to cuddle her, and help her to settle. It helped me so much to accept what was happening, and let her be cared for by St Clare.”

“I came to visit Mum every day that she was staying at St Clare. My boyfriend came with me every single day – he has been my rock throughout all of this. However, as Mum deteriorated, there were still occasions when I thought I didn’t know if I could come back anymore, where I felt so broken that I thought I couldn’t face it.”

“Gradually, the staff at St Clare helped me to come to terms with the fact that Mum really was going to die. We didn’t expect her to deteriorate so quickly, but I knew that I wanted to be there when the time was to come.”

“Yet, St Clare helped me to stop thinking about ‘the end’. In fact, we just started living in the moment. I didn’t have to worry about Mum’s care because I knew she was being supported so well at St Clare.”

“It was on Tuesday 26th September 2017 that I had gone home for dinner, which I didn’t often do, when I got the call from St Clare. I was literally just finishing making Mum a pompom, tying the last string on it, when the phone rang. I recognised the number, and it was Lorraine from St Clare to tell me to come to the hospice right away.”

“I didn’t panic as much as I thought I would. I came rushing through the front doors at St Clare, and I remember the nurses at Mum’s door, and some of them were crying.”

“Mum died at 9pm that night. I didn’t get to be there with her, but I think that somehow, she knew that it was time to let go. Perhaps she didn’t want me to be there during that moment, and although I wanted to have that last bit of time with her, I am so glad that she was peacef

ul at St Clare.”

“When I look back now, more than a year after Mum’s death, I can remember times at St Clare where I forgot where I was. I just felt like I was doing the ‘crafty Tuesday afternoons’ and everything was normal! I felt so relaxed and peaceful that it was like I was floating.”

“St Clare gave us the last jigsaw piece to Mum’s journey.”

“Now, when I come back to St Clare, I feel like I am as close to Mum as I’ve been since she died. Although she has got a lovely space that we can visit at the Harlow Cemetery, to me, she’ll always be at St Clare. In Room 8 – that’s where we left her.”

“I think the main thing about St Clare is the warmth you feel. They give you warmth, and love, caring for you like family. The staff were just wonderful, and there was no length they wouldn’t go to.”

“So many people are scared of hospices – they think they will be dark and dingy with the most basic equipment, and just a place to come to die.”

“There’s no reason to be scared of coming to St Clare at all. You’re accepted straight away as part of a family. Your insecurities fade away and you forget about things that used to bother you. They teach you that none of those things matter – what matters is you.”

“Having St Clare to take some of that pressure off helped me to enjoy my last moments with Mum, and make special memories that will last a lifetime.”

– Laura


Laura’s Orbit Abseil Challenge

“After almost a year had passed since Mum died, I felt that I needed to do something in her honour and memory, and in aid of St Clare for all they did for us. I thought that if I could raise money for them, they can continue to develop their care services for others who really need them – just like we did.”

“My mum always used to praise me for having ‘a lot of bottle’ when I was younger. I hadn’t done anything adventurous in a long while, but then I saw St Clare advertising their Orbit Abseil challenge with the phrase ‘Going for Gold’! I did it for my Mum; the term ‘going for gold’ was something my Mum and I used to say.”

“On the day, it was an experience full of different emotions. It was very nerve-wracking to see how tall the sculpture was when I stood at the bottom, even more so when I leaned over the top. The Orbit tower is the UK’s largest sculpture at 262ft, so you can imagine we had lovely views over the whole of London.”

“I felt elated being in the air once we had done the hard part of getting over the ledge. I got to meet lots of people there, and really enjoyed hearing everyone’s stories or connections with St Clare. They were all really inspirational.”

“Raising money for a charity that helped my family in many ways makes me feel good and proud of myself. It is nice to know that my efforts are enabling others to access the care that they need in order to cope. I really hope that it has made a difference to someone.”

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