Sharon Ereira, far right
Sharon Ereira became a patient at St Peter & St James Hospice in Lewes, East Sussex, having been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer at 41. She regularly attended the hospice’s Beacon View Wellbeing Centre. Before she died, she shared her touching experience of hospice care and offered her wisdom on making the most of life.
I was a fairly normal 41-year-old woman before all this: just living and enjoying my life. I had a really energetic, active lifestyle; I worked in a very fulfilling role at the Institute of Cancer Research, had a buzzing social life and loved running – you’d often find me taking on a 10k in a silly outfit!
I’d had breathing problems for about a year and a half before being diagnosed, but the news I received was a huge shock; I had stage four lung cancer. There isn’t a stage five. As someone so young, fit and active who had never smoked, it turned my world upside down.
I immediately started chemotherapy but suffered with serious complications, including being admitted to hospital multiple times with pneumonia. My partner, Justin, was afraid to leave me in the house alone because I was weak and vulnerable. Even emptying the dishwasher could wipe me out for the day! I became increasingly housebound and felt totally isolated.
When the hospice was mentioned to me, I didn’t want to go. I had lots of thoughts in my head about what it would be like, but I knew I desperately needed to get out the house and that I’d be safe at the hospice. I started coming to the Beacon View Wellbeing Centre.
Beacon View surprised me, in fact it totally dispelled all of my preconceptions. I found it a relaxing place to go, where I could do as little or as much as I wanted. Being with others facing their own health challenges was refreshing and I soon made close friends. Since coming here weekly, I’ve upcycled coat hangers, written poetry, taken up yoga and enjoyed reflexology. I’ve found new ways to fill my life and it’s inspired me so much.
I’ve also accessed other wellbeing services at the hospice including counselling, which has helped me enormously to deal with the challenges of living with cancer. The hospice has helped me to regain my confidence and a sense of self.
I have a new lease of life in the face of adversity. I appreciate everything now – birdsong, sunshine, Justin, my family and friends. I feel everyone should take time to be grateful for loved ones and small pleasures; life is richer when you do. I’m trying to make the most of whatever time I have left; I’m now volunteering and have started my own creative projects at home. I wouldn’t be in this position without the support, kindness and understanding of the hospice.
Until you have to come to a hospice for any reason, you may not understand the difference that these places make. The hospice has helped me to keep going through some of the extreme ups and downs of my illness. I feel so lucky to have had that opportunity.
I would say to anyone in a similar situation to me, anyone dealing with something difficult or simply life’s day-to-day stresses; leave your inhibitions behind, open the door to new experiences and find a positive way forward. Cherish people, too, fill your days with the little things you love and give to others.
For more information visit St Peter & St James Hospice.
Open Up Hospice Care, Hospice UK’s campaign to raise awareness and increase access to end of life care runs till the end of March.