“In March of this year, my life changed forever when my Mum received a lung cancer diagnosis, it was totally unexpected, particularly as she was a non-smoker.
“The cancer was very aggressive and it was sadly already too late to do anything; an impossibly difficult situation to find ourselves in. With no warning at all, my Dad (Melvyn), two sisters (Louise and Melanie) and I were plunged into planning end of life care for Mum, so we contacted our local hospice, Dougie Mac, in the first instance.
“Two days later, Sonia, one of Dougie Mac’s Hospice at Home nurses, visited Mum’s house for an initial assessment. She asked Mum how she was feeling and there were lots of questions about her health in general – she wanted to know all about Mum. Sonia explained at length every service that Dougie Mac could offer Mum and involved all 5 of us in the discussions and decision-making. She answered all of our questions and addressed our concerns, bringing calm to what was already an exceedingly stressful situation.
“Initially, Mum wanted to be at home when the time came, and so we decided to progress forward with the Hospice at Home team at the end of the phone 24/7 to reassure us, as well as visits. For the first two weeks, Mum remained positive and still had a little bit of mobility, despite also suffering a heart attack.
“During the third week, Mum began to deteriorate, and Sonia became more involved. Her visits brought us relief as she ensured Mum had the right medication and could remain as comfortable and pain free as possible. Sonia was brilliant; not only did she chat with Mum, but with the rest of us too, checking we were okay and helping out wherever possible, listening to our worries and letting us know what to expect. She was always able to make a suggestion when we expressed our concerns, and Mum always seemed a bit brighter after a little chat with Sonia.
“In the two weeks to follow, Mum’s health got worse and my two sisters and I continued to help my Dad care for her each day. The visits and telephone support from Hospice at Home became more frequent and were a real lifeline for us. The warmth and compassion shown to us was excellent.
“It got more difficult to care for Mum at home as her health rapidly deteriorated, her mobility was diminishing and she was finding it more difficult to communicate fully. Dad was exhausted looking after her day and night, he was awake throughout the night with her and constantly clock-watching to check she had the right medication at the right time.
“As a family, we made the decision that Mum should be transferred to the hospice’s Inpatient Unit (IPU), and Dougie Mac were eager to facilitate. They were happy to arrange a bed for the next day, and sorted the transport for us which was a huge help.
“Moving Mum into IPU meant we could breathe a sigh of relief; instead of acting as carers we could go back to being a family again, and really treasure those last few days with Mum. The doctors and nurses were honest and transparent about everything to do with Mum’s health. They told us what to expect, and how they could help Mum to be as comfortable as possible. Mum decided she wanted to stay there, rather than returning home. We can’t praise them enough; they were always on hand and did everything they could to ensure we didn’t have to worry about her medical needs, we could just focus on spending precious time with Mum.
“It was just 5 weeks after the diagnosis that she slipped away. It was incredibly tough, and still is, but we will forever be grateful to the hospice for going above and beyond in caring for us as a family. I’m really not sure how we would have coped were it not for the tremendous help of the hospice, it doesn’t even bear thinking about.
“To give something back, my Dad, sisters and I have supported the Everlasting Flowers campaign, and collected several of them between us for our gardens. I’ve recently signed up for the hospice’s weekly lottery whilst my Dad has been playing it for years, and my step-daughter Becki and her boyfriend George completed the Potters ‘Arf this summer to raise funds for Dougie Mac.
“Unfortunately, you never know when you will need to call on the services of Dougie Mac, so it’s imperative that we do whatever we can to support this wonderful hospice that does so much for local families. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts.”