Hospice care and giving back

Rog and Flo at the hospice

Rog and Flo at the hospice

My husband Roger spent around three months at our local hospice before he passed away in July. As I wrote at the time, when the word hospice was first mentioned to me I was devastated. To me, hospice care could mean only one thing – that you were ready to die and this was a place where you would go to do it. It was like giving up, and at the time we were certainly not ready to do that. Rog had been diagnosed with bowel cancer when he had already been through what we both thought was the worst period of health problems he would ever experience. Eighteen months earlier, he had collapsed at home while looking after our son Sam and luckily managed to call me at work to ask me to come home. I’ll never forget walking into the hall, me seven months pregnant, him looking like death, and desperately dialling 999.

A few hours later I was sitting in an airless hospital room being told he only had a 50-50 chance of survival. He pulled through, but that day was the start of an eight-month stay in hospital, a 12-month stint on intravenous food, and a life-changing moment in all our lives.

My precious, fit, healthy, optimistic, vegetarian husband had gone through a horrendous experience, and neither of us thought it would end with a separate diagnosis of terminal cancer. How could we? How does anyone? So when it came we were desperate for an answer, a way out that would fix him again and make the impossible possible.

That never came, as sadly there was no treatment worth trying. I remember him asking the surgeon – who by then he had become quite fond of – what would happen if he were to try chemo. ‘You would die within days, if not hours,’ was his reply.

Raising money for the hospice

So the hospice became the next step. If nothing else, it would be a change from the over-familiar hospital walls, we thought. When we arrived, it was like being given a reassuring hug and a breath of fresh air. It provided comfort, as the room at Wirral St John’s was like a five star hotel compared with Arrowe Park Hospital. It provided nourishment, as the food was home-cooked and good for you, and it provided friendship, as many of the staff there went over and above to make us feel at ease.

It may not have provided a cure, but it gave a sign that people cared, that they would do what they could, and that they would make what is everyone’s worst nightmare somehow not quite so bad as we first thought. If this was going to happen, then we finally felt we were in the right place.

The hospice at Clatterbridge looked after not only Roger but they cared for me, our children and our family too. It was a place where the kids could be themselves. They could spread out a little, use the toys in the day room and open the doors from their dad’s room to play in the garden outside. At first, we never thought Rog would be able to come back home to stay, but they made that possible. Without that we would never have managed those final four weeks as a family in our own home.

It was because of all that that we wanted to give something back. Roger had started planning his funeral and decided to ask people to donate to the hospice rather than send flowers when time came. I set up a Just Giving page after his death and so far it has raised a massive £1,977. Donations in the church on the day of the funeral took that total up to £2,276, which is far more than I ever expected to achieve.

Our son Sam wanted to get involved with fundraising too, and set up a shop at my mum and dad’s house to raise money for three of his worthy causes – the hospice (or ‘hospes’ as he spells it), the RNLI (a charity supported by his class at school), and ‘poor people’, a general term I think he coined for anyone worse off than himself!

He raised about £25 for the hospice, which for a six-year-old is not bad going. I’m so proud that he wanted to get involved like that, and that he played his own part in helping others to be looked after as well as his dad was.

Family collage pics

My brother-in-law Will, who is a consultant at Harrogate Hospital, also raised a large amount of cash for the hospice by doing a coast-to-coast bike ride in the summer. Along with some of his anaesthetic colleagues, he rode from Southport to Bridlington and managed to raise a grand total of £1,185. Will had to break up his trip when his own daughter fell ill, but I am assured he earnt every penny of his sponsorship cycling up and down those hills!

Some of my close friends, Claire and Dom, asked for donations to a few charities at their wedding in July, one of which was Wirral St John’s in honour of Roger. They raised a further £1,458.67. How fantastic is that? I am so touched that so many of our friends, family, colleagues, even people we have never met, have wanted to join in and make some money for such an amazing cause.

I just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who has helped make a difference – to those who donated, those who helped raise money and those who cared for Roger and our family. I hope the money we have raised in Roger’s name will go some way to helping the hospice make the final moments of other people’s lives as special as they can be. Now, when anyone mentions the word hospice, a very different picture is conjured to the one I had in March. Now, I see the hospice as a place of safety, of care, and of support.

x Julia

Hospice gardens

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  • Reply
    Sarah howe
    October 6, 2015 at 8:06 am

    It sounds like such a fantastic place. Felt quite emotional reading this. So glad it provided you with the help to spend those last few weeks together as a family. The fundraising is incredible. How generous and amazing so many can give something back xx #twinklytuesday

  • Reply
    October 6, 2015 at 9:10 am

    what a wonderful positive thing to come out of such bad time. Well done to all concerned. X

  • Reply
    Mummy Tries
    October 6, 2015 at 11:28 am

    Sounds like a truly remarkable place! Well done for raising awareness and funds. Go Sam, what a little dude xxx
    Mummy Tries recently posted…We Need to Talk About the Elephant in the RoomMy Profile

  • Reply
    Mackenzie Glanville
    October 6, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    Sam deserves an extra big hug, what a little star! You are such a great role model for him and you are an inspiration to all of us even if you don’t now it xx
    Mackenzie Glanville recently posted…Spring days #mummy and usMy Profile

  • Reply
    Jess Mrs Puddleducky
    October 6, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    What a fantastic job your son did! Amazing all that money you raised! The hospice sounds like an amazing place and that they looked after you all so week, like you say, all your needs. How brave writing and sharing your thoughts on this after your loss. Truly inspirational x
    Jess Mrs Puddleducky recently posted…My Hubby’s Bucket ListMy Profile

  • Reply
    Harry's Honest Mummy
    October 8, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    My brother in law passed away from a brain tumour early this year at the age of 46. Leaving behind two children and my heartbroken sister. I draw such strength from your posts and thank you for sharing them.
    Harry’s Honest Mummy recently posted…Snapshot of the Week – #12My Profile

    • Reply
      October 9, 2015 at 8:49 am

      I am so sorry to hear of your loss but thank you so much for your kind words. Makes it better when I feel like giving up! x

  • Reply
    Nicky Kentisbeer
    October 8, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    This was very beautiful to read Julia and very moving. Such wonderful family pictures to support a truly inspirational piece. The hospices and their staff are amazing and you must feel very proud that all of your donations and the hard work of your children, family and friends in fundraising is going to such a fabulously, deserving place. You are all very brave indeed. Thank you for sharing this story. Nicky #twinklytuesday
    Nicky Kentisbeer recently posted…Ever Wondered Where Your Mojo Goes?My Profile

  • Reply
    Sarah Doyle - let them be small
    October 10, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    I think the most important things are beginning of life and end of life care… these are the moments that stay with people forever and the moments that really make a difference. End of Life care and hospices are priceless. I am so pleased that such a wonderful sum of money was raised in Rog’s memory x
    Sarah Doyle – let them be small recently posted…Weather Books for Toddlers and Young ChildrenMy Profile

  • Reply
    Lisa (mummascribbles)
    October 10, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    What a gorgeous post Julia and it’s so lovely to see just how much has been raised in Roger’s name. The hospice sounds just wonderful. When my dad was in the hosoicem , it was nice but nowhere near as nice as this. Don’t get me wrong, they cared for him wonderfully and we were allowed to stay there as much and as often as we wanted to which was brilliant. It just doesn’t sound like quite the place. I’m so glad that Roger was in that hospice though, somewhere where the kids could go and spend time with their dad and not feel like they were in the way. So often we feel that our children shouldn’t be in such places but obviously in this case there is no doubt that they should. Well done to everyone who has raised money for such a wonderful place. Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday
    Lisa (mummascribbles) recently posted…I’m back!!My Profile

  • Reply
    October 12, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    A beautiful post Julia and Sam is such a little love xxx
    Lisa@intotheglade recently posted…My Monday Quote!My Profile

  • Reply
    October 14, 2015 at 8:19 am

    I don’t really comment on posts that often but I can really relate to what you’ve written about hospices. My Dad died last November from cancer and had spent a miserable few weeks in a hospital ‘space’ with no window. He was effectively in a corridor with curtains either side of him. He was so desperate to get out but they weren’t sure if he would survive the journey. Thankfully he made it to our local hospice for his last couple of days. It really was like a 5* hotel, particularly in comparison to where he had been. The whole journey seemed unfair. He was a fair few years from retirement and had been looking forward to doing so much with my Mum. the staff at the hospice were incredible, trying to learn his personality and actually being able to spend a little more time over his care.

    I’m so glad you’ve been raising money for your hospice as they do make such a difference. I’m also so sorry for your loss. Sounds like he was taken far far too soon.

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