This month’s sees Hospice Care Week take place from 3rd until 9th October, slap bang in the middle of our launch event, which is why our charity for October is local hospice Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court.
In this blog post we hear from Rachel a 33 year old mum of two from Cheltenham who shares her experience of the care her mother received at the hospice, which is the provider of the only inpatient unit in Gloucestershire giving specialist hospice care in their 16 bed unit nestled at the foothills of the Cotswolds.
Rachel had a very close relationship with her mum, Anne, who she describes as a strong, independent and fun loving woman to whom family was everything. Charity work and volunteering were a large part of Anne’s life, and she volunteered in a charity shop in Cheltenham for ten years before being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in October 2010.
In December 2010 the family received the devastating diagnosis that Anne’s cancer was terminal and due to the size of the tumour nothing more could be done. Anne underwent a course of chemotherapy which she responded well to and the tumour reduced to a size where Anne was able to have an operation to remove most of it.
For a year Anne was well and she continued enjoying her busy family life. As Anne’s cancer progressed she was referred to Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice for support and treatment where she attended the Day Hospice in September 2011. Anne also received Hospice at Home care to help control her symptoms and pain, and as she became more poorly was admitted into the inpatient unit for specialist care in July 2013. Anne died three weeks later at the hospice. Here are Rachel’s words.
Mum was amazing. She was just happy being mum. She loved nothing more than being surrounded by her family and I was always a mummy’s girl.
Mum was really young when she passed away, only 53. She had her first child young, so was a young Nanny. She absolutely loved being a hands on Nanny.
She was just full of personality. Always a bit of a rebel and didn’t like rules. She was always of the ‘life is too short’ mentality. Always up for a laugh and a great big kid. The children absolutely adored her. She was the crazy Nanny they could have fun with.
Being a single mum, she was both my mum and dad. She was everything to me and I am so blessed to have had such a special relationship with her.
Mum was a bit apprehensive about attending a hospice at first. We all thought of it as a place where you go to die, but when she first attended Day Hospice and met the wonderful staff and other people going through the same as her she found it was really a place all about life.
Mum loved going to Day Hospice at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court. My husband always used to tease her and ask if she was going to ‘day release’ today as she was picked up by the mini bus.
Mum was really creative and loved the opportunity to do creative art at the Day Hospice. She was really proud of everything she made while there and we all got trinkets to keep. We treasure them.
As mum became more poorly we received Hospice at Home care. A lovely nurse came out for an hour every Friday for around four months. She would help with mum’s medication, make sure mum wasn’t in any pain. What I found incredible was that the care she gave wasn’t just about my mum. It was about me and the whole family too. She made sure I was coping, made sure we were all coping.
When we were starting to struggle at home the nurse recognised this and said I think it is time we get your mum into the hospice. I felt so sad to be going there but when we arrived my perception completely changed – it is just so lovely.
We took our girls to see their Nanny every day at the hospice and they loved it. They loved travelling up the long sweeping drive, spotting the cows in the fields, seeing the flowers and the wildlife. When things got too much my husband would take them to play in the beautiful grounds.
Mum hadn’t eaten or drank anything in a long time but one day she woke up from a sleep and really fancied a cider. It was my husband’s birthday that day and the nurse got one for her. Mum loved cider and it really made her day being able sip on one and toast her son-in-law.
One memory that stands out for me is watching our two girls running on ahead around the lake at the hospice whilst my husband pushed mum around in her wheelchair. The girls were picking flowers and bringing them back to my mum with laughter and big smiles. Some of the last photos I have of my mum are of us all sat together in the hospice grounds with my mum holding the flowers the girls had handpicked for her.
It means so much to have my last memories with mum being surrounded by love in such a beautiful place.
While we were in the hospice I was given the time to be able to focus completely on mum. When I was caring for her at home I had to worry about everything, but in the hospice all I had to worry about was her.
My brother, husband and I stayed all night with mum the night before she passed away and nothing was too much trouble for the nurses. They made a real fuss of us all.
Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice is so supportive. I was supported greatly during the time we were there. They didn’t just support my mum, they supported the whole family. We weren’t on our own. We were never made to feel a burden. Nothing was too much trouble for any of the staff, especially when we stayed overnight. They did everything they could to make us comfy.
Staff really went above and beyond. The offered a different type of care. The doctor looking after mum knew I worked and he would ring me at work to keep me updated.
After mum passed away I had calls from the bereavement team, offering me more support. The opportunity to share my own experiences with others meant that I did not feel so alone.
Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court gave us so much and we want to give something back. Last year we my husband and eldest daughter completed Starlight Hike in mum’s memory. It was a really emotional night but a wonderful way to remember her and give something back.
Some people think hospices are sad and depressing and surrounded by death. They’re not. The place is so alive. When I was there I felt surrounded by hope.
When she was admitted into the hospice it was a year of butterflies and the hospice gardens were absolutely full of beautiful Peacock butterflies. Mum always said to her granddaughters that she would come back as a pink butterfly. By pure coincidence my youngest daughter was put into Butterfly Group when she started playgroup shortly after mum died. I see it as a sign she is watching over us all.
Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice made the beautiful final chapter with my mum. We couldn’t have got those memories from anywhere else.
Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice is located just outside Cheltenham. It costs just £16 to pay for an hour of incredible care from one of its nurses. You can find out more and donate at www.sueryder.org/leckhampton.
CheltenhamMaman will be donating 10% of all income received during the month of October to Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice.