Sadie shares her story of how Willen Hospice helped her Mum and her family to make those final Christmas memories.
In September 2021, we were given mum’s devastating cancer diagnosis. Initially, she was told she only had 12 months to live. It didn’t make sense. How could someone so healthy, active and full of life be on borrowed time? The following months were really hard. We spoke with different doctors so we could better understand the extent of mum’s illness. One day at the hospital, we met the Consultant in Palliative Medicine, Dr Ben. He spent an hour with mum and me, explaining everything clearly – helping us to put together the puzzle pieces. He was wonderful, and like mum, quite the entertainer. He was the one who suggested that we get in touch with Willen Hospice.
We were already familiar with the Hospice, as five years previous, my mother-in-law spent her last few days being cared for there. They were so wonderful with her and the wider family, we even fundraised for them through the dance school that I ran with mum; every year we put on a show and gave all the proceeds to the Hospice. So when Dr. Ben suggested Willen Hospice, mum knew she’d be in great hands.
From the start, mum was adamant that she wanted to be cared for at home, with her family around her. Very quickly, we were put in touch with the Willen at Home team, and the following day the nurses came to our house. They were incredible and helped to make sure mum could spend her final days at home comfortably, with the people she loved.
The nurses came to visit mum sometimes twice or three times a day. They balanced her medication and gave her any pain relief that she needed. They always treated her with the utmost dignity and respect. It was lovely for mum to have friendly, experienced nurses to chat and joke with, which really helped bring some lightness to her days.
Mum also received counselling to help her cope with what was happening. Being told you don’t have long left to live is a really hard thing. But the counsellor was fantastic. Every time she came, she cheered mum up and helped her to stay strong and brave right until the end. Mum was able to say things to the counsellor that she didn’t want to say to us for fear of upsetting us. So having that dedicated time at home, where mum could express her innermost feelings, was a breath of fresh air.
Willen Hospice really looked after our family as well. It was a stressful time for us, trying to run our lives as well as going through the emotions of it all.
The counsellor phoned us regularly to check how we were doing and gave us advice about how we could help ourselves to help mum. It was the first time that anyone had factored in how we were handling everything. It felt like Willen Hospice gave us a big family hug – exactly what we needed to get through the whole ordeal.
Christmas was always big in our family. Every year we’d have lots of family members over on Christmas Day and even more on Boxing Day. We’d play games, eat a huge festive dinner, and without fail, watch the Queen’s speech. It was mum’s favourite part of the day; she wouldn’t let anyone talk while the Queen was talking!
On Christmas Day 2021, mum was deteriorating quickly. We were all really worried, not knowing what would happen. We called the Hospice and they answered right away. Within 45 minutes, two of the nurses were at our doorstep. They were so lovely and cheerful; they didn’t seem to mind at all that it was Christmas Day – they were just happy to help. They stayed for a while, changed mum’s medication and got her comfortable. It was a huge relief. With the Hospice’s support, mum could spend her last Christmas just as she’d wanted – with the grandchildren around her, and of course, the Queen’s speech on the television. It was such a special day and one that we’ll cherish forever.
The Hospice played such an important role in our lives. They enabled mum to spend her final months in the place she wanted to be, as happy and pain-free as possible. They helped us in our darkest moments and did so with such humbleness and dignity. They gave mum her one last family Christmas, which we’ll be eternally thankful for.
Mum said to me, “After I’m gone, you must carry on supporting them.” To be honest, we had no idea how little funding they got – they really rely on the generosity of individuals. I promised mum I’d do everything I could to raise money for Willen Hospice – and I’ll continue to do just that. So today, please consider leaving a special gift of care this Christmas to such a wonderful Hospice – which we’d have been totally lost without.
Thank you and Merry Christmas,