Margaret felt lonely and depressed after her cancer diagnosis, as well as being unable to sleep because of the pain she was in. Here she shares how St Catherine’s Hospice in Crawley has looked after her, physically as well as emotionally.
I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at East Surrey Hospital a few months ago. After my diagnosis I went home, but the news really shook me. I live alone and I was in awful pain, I’d never known anything like it.
My daughter Janette was really worried about me. Nobody could come and visit because of COVID, so everything was left up to her. Meanwhile my illness was getting worse. I wasn’t eating or drinking as everything tasted like tin. I laid in bed alone for four days, unable to do anything, before I was sent to hospital. They checked me over and sent me home again, but then I started being violently sick.
Janette got in touch with St Catherine’s, who said someone would call me, but she explained that I couldn’t really speak. I just wanted someone to hold my hand and tell me it would be okay. The hospice arranged for a community doctor to see me at home; they took one look at me and told me I needed to go to the hospice because I was completely dehydrated.
Attentive, personalised care
I was a bit wary when I first heard the word “hospice”, but I was so depressed and in so much pain by this point that I didn’t care what happened. I honestly didn’t think I’d be going home again.
After eight days at the hospice I feel completely different – like I’m not the same person that first came here. The doctors, nurses, cleaners, cooks, they’re all absolutely marvellous. I didn’t believe a place like this, that could help you so much, existed. They’re all so attentive – even the cleaning staff ask how I’m feeling each morning.
I call the first doctor I saw my Wonder Woman. Everyone takes the time to listen which makes such a difference. They answer my questions in plain English and they’re so patient. One doctor explained why I kept being sick at home, and they always tell me what medication they’re trying and why.
Feeling like a new person
My pain is pretty much under control now. When I first came in I wasn’t sleeping through the night because I had pain in my neck. A nurse would always keep me company. The pain was due to my nerves, but the doctors have tried a new patch that has helped take it away.
I’m able to taste food again now. It started with fruit; one day the cooks made a milkshake and I could taste the strawberries. Since then, they’ve made me lots of fruity things and I’ve had sorbets and ice creams as well as hot chocolates.
I even managed my first solid meal when I had roast lamb for Sunday lunch. Coming from Yorkshire I couldn’t resist, even though I thought it might taste like tin. It took me about an hour to cut it up small enough to swallow, but I wasn’t going to let that beat me. I enjoyed it so much – I’ve never had a roast dinner like it. The food here is so good!
I took a picture to send to my children and said, “look what I’m eating now”. They couldn’t believe it. To be eating and drinking again has made me feel like a new woman. I told one of my sons, who lives in Cornwall, and he said it meant so much for him to hear that.
Happy and safe
Before coming to St Catherine’s I felt so alone. When I first arrived, I wasn’t aware of what was going on. Now I’m awake and chatting, and I feel happier and safer, like I’m alive again. Even the nurses have noticed the difference in just a week.
I often sit in the chair by my bed after my shower, and I’ve even been able to get out into the hospice garden to sit and read the paper. Before I got ill, I loved my garden, so it’s lovely to get a bit of fresh air.
I’ve never experienced care, understanding and patience like this. I’ve accepted my illness and talked to my family about the future. I’ve told them that for my final days, I want to be here at the hospice.
I never thought I’d leave, but now the doctors are talking about when I can go home and I’m so happy. If anything changes, or if I’m worried about anything, I just need to get in touch. I’m not scared anymore – I know they’ll be there for me.
Did you know it takes 40,000 dedicated staff, 125,000 volunteers and 1.1 million home visits a year to provide end of life care? Today marks the start of Hospice Care Week, and to mark the week we’re sharing stories that highlight what it takes to give people and their families the care they need and deserve at the end of life, no matter who they are, where they are or why they are ill.
- To find out how you can get involved visit Hospice Care Week 2020