Already living with Parkinson’s, Stephen was a laid-back Geordie, who liked “cake and a boogie”. His brain tumour diagnosis shook the family, which is when St Clare stepped in.
“Me and my dad were very close. He made my packed lunches, met me after school – he was a really hands-on dad. I was, and will always be, a real daddy’s girl.
“It started when me and my mum noticed his walking was a bit strange. We just thought his medication needed reviewing but thinking back, I suppose the signs were there as he’d had two car accidents in the space of six months and he’d never had an accident before. It turned out that was the brain tumor. When the doctor in A&E told us, and handed us the leaflet about brain cancer, we were devastated.
“By the time the cancer was found it was already Stage 4. Dad only wanted me and Mum caring for him, so the two of us ended up doing that for a long time. The Hospice at Home nurses would come round to help us, but my dad was fixated on my mum and me doing it. We just couldn’t keep on with that level of care – at the beginning, we were running on adrenaline, but that soon ran out.
“It was one of the St Clare Clinical Nurse Specialists, Cate, who convinced Dad to accept more help. She explained that me and Mum would still be there, but the Hospice at Home nurses would come for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. I said to Dad, “They have all the right experience. It’s not just letting two random ladies into your house to look after you in a vulnerable state – this is their job!”
“Once the Hospice at Home girls started doing more, he loved it. He loved chinwagging with everyone. It was such a turnaround – he’d send me out the room straight away!
“Dad deteriorated over the space of 13 months. It went on for so long I felt like I’d started grieving before he’d gone. I was put in touch with one of the Family Support team, Jane. I could call her and tell her how I was feeling. She would relax my mind. You know your parents are going to go before you, but not when you’ve just come out of your teenage years. Jane told me there weren’t many 22-year-olds who would be as hands-on as I was, who’d put work aside and just care for their dad. She was my rock. The one thing everybody has in common at St Clare is that they have a real family feel.
“I think without St Clare we would’ve genuinely felt like we were going crazy. As soon as we were put in contact with St Clare, they scooped us up. Everything we were thinking, they were already 10 steps ahead. Every question we asked, they were there to answer.
“And now he has gone, my brain is still re-computing. My life is now a new normal. I’m going through life doing things without him, which is so hard as a 23-year-old, but I know St Clare are still here for me.”