This Christmas, Fiona Hickey will once again be remembering her late mum in the special Light Up a Life appeal run by Treetops Hospice.
Fiona, 57, from Belper, has been dedicating a light in memory of Natalie Hickey, since she died of ovarian cancer in September 2013. It’s become an important tradition for the Hickey family each year, helping Fiona feel her mum is still part of their Christmas.
Fiona is sharing her story to encourage others to dedicate a light in memory of their loved ones and support the local end-of-life charity.
“Christmas was always special in our house. Mum and I used to make the Christmas cake and wrap presents together. My dad used to bring the tree in, and my mum and I used to decorate it.
“Mum was everything to me. She was a lovely lady, very sociable and very popular. It’s lovely when people talk about her now even though it’s nine years since she passed away.”
Natalie moved from Rhondda Valley in Wales to Darley Park with husband, Donald, in 1962. She was a stay-at-home mum to Fiona, until going to work at Boots for several years.
“We had a busy family life, but it was nice. Mum was always there which was lovely. I was an only child and my daughter, Danielle is an only child. She’s just had a little girl too. Because we are a small family, we are so close and I’m very lucky because I’ve got the same relationship with my daughter as I had with mum.”
Natalie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2010.
“Looking back, I think mum was probably diagnosed quite late on,” Fiona continues. “They call ovarian cancer the ‘silent killer’ because it’s all symptoms that women suffer with on a day to day basis and don’t question.
“When she was diagnosed, she started chemo and then we went through the whole loss of hair, and everything. Mum was always very smart and dressed beautifully. Everybody used to comment on how lovely she looked. But I had a friend, a local hairdresser, who was fantastic with wigs, so we got her sorted before she lost her hair.”
Natalie was back in hospital when she and her family were told there was nothing more they could do, and the cancer had spread too far.
“It was always mum’s wish to stay at home, our family home, when the end came. So, between myself, my dad and Danielle, we looked after her.
“Towards the end, it got harder. We were struggling because somebody had to be with her at night. She had a bed in a downstairs room, and she couldn’t be left on her own, because she would want to get out of bed or do something.
“Between my daughter and I, we were literally sleeping on the floor next to mum because we couldn’t fit another bed in the room. We were all exhausted.”
Fiona sought help from Treetops and Hospice at Home nurses came to help care for Natalie at night.
“I describe the Treetops nurse who came to us as ‘an angel on earth’. She just made so much difference. I knew I was leaving mum in capable, safe hands and it just meant we could all relax, have a good night’s sleep, and be fresh the next day.
“The nurses were so special. They would just come in, so calm and capable, and they just sort of quietly took over. And you’d just think, ‘ah, yes, I can relax now’, which was lovely.
“I always remember the day before she passed away. The nurse who came helped me give mum a bed bath. We put her in a clean nightie, and it just felt so right to me that she was like that when she actually passed away.
“In the end she died at home peacefully. We were all with her; my dad, myself, Danielle. If a death can be nice, it couldn’t have been in a better place with better people.
“We fulfilled our promise to keep mum at home and we couldn’t have done that without Treetops Hospice.
Fiona is asking others to dedicate a light in memory of their loved ones and support the local end-of-life charity.
“We do Light Up a Life every year since mum died. I just think it’s such a lovely way to include somebody that you’ve lost in a family celebration at Christmas.
“By dedicating a light, you’re remembering that person, and you’re also giving something towards helping somebody else.”
For more information and to dedicate a light in memory of a loved one, head to www.treetops.org.uk/lights or call the hospice on 0115 949 1264.
Proceeds from dedications go towards supporting Treetops Hospice to help care for patients and families in the local community.
A special outdoor Light Up a Life Remembrance Ceremony will take place at the hospice in Risley on Saturday 4 December. The ceremony is free to attend. For more details and to confirm attendance, go to: www.treetops.org.uk/lights
Photo Caption: Fiona Hickey remembers mum in Light Up a Life appeal
About Treetops Hospice
Treetops Hospice, the leading end-of-life care charity in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, provides nursing care and emotional support for adults with life-limiting conditions, and their families.
The charity provides support from diagnosis onwards for patients with conditions such as cancer, motor neurone disease and heart and respiratory conditions.
Founded in 1983, Treetops supports thousands of local people – and their families – through the most difficult time of their lives. Last year, our team of Hospice at Home nurses provided over 20,000 hours of care to terminally-ill patients, working day and night to give much-needed support.
We have a team of bereavement counsellors who provide over 4,500 counselling sessions – more than 900 of them to children and young people. Wellbeing team members provide valuable information and support to those who need it.
Treetops are lucky to have over 400 amazing volunteers who help to keep the hospice running smoothly.
Treetops is doing all it can to continue to support those in most need and welcomes donations to ensure the future of the hospice and its services: www.treetopshospice.org.uk/donate
Treetops Hospice, Derby Road, Risley, Derbyshire, DE72 3SS
0115 949 1264 | www.treetopshospice.org.uk
Registered Charity Number 519540