I want to make the most of the time I have got left.
A common myth about hospices is that they are places you go to die. We like to think that hospices are for the living, and we are here to give our patients the best possible quality of life.
While the care we deliver is palliative, not everyone who we care for is at the end of their life. There are a range of reasons why someone may come to St Leonard’s, including symptom control.
Mark (52) has bowel cancer. Diagnosed in 2020, he has spent the last three years undergoing chemotherapy. He was admitted to the Hospice to help with a range of symptoms including pain, fatigue, reduced mobility, and emotional psychological distress.
Following two weeks under our in-patient unit care, where we supported him with pain management, spiritual and social care, plus physiotherapy, he was discharged home in a much better state of mind. His focus now is on living the rest of his life with his wife, Joanne, and young son Killian.
He says: “The Hospice felt like the right environment for me. I have spent the last three years trying to extend my life with chemotherapy. It is one of the biggest, daunting, and isolating things that can happen to you, dealing with an incurable disease. Being at the Hospice was a massive benefit. It gave me the time and space to make an informed decision to stop treatment.
“The care you receive at the Hospice is patient centred. No one is too busy for you and people have the time to sit and listen. They allowed me to talk and gave me excellent advice.
“I finally feel in control of my illness, and I am focused on living, not on dying. It is about the quality of time I have left now, making memories with my young family.”
One milestone on the horizon is Killian’s sixth birthday. “He came to visit me several times at the Hospice. He was not scared at all because the atmosphere is so calm and inviting and because he got a lot of chocolate! There were lovely spaces to spend time with him, including a family room,” Mark says.
Mark wants to come back to the Hospice to die, mainly because of Killian. “I do not want him to see me die at home. We have had a talk and he understands that I will become one of the stars in the sky, looking down on him.”
For Mark, coming to the Hospice was the right decision. “Care is given properly and not rushed. The whole experience was like being in a five-star hotel.”