Fiona, 50, describes how St Richard’s Hospice helped her get her life back on track after a cancer diagnosis.
I was a fit and well working mum of two teenagers and was very shocked in May 2016 to be diagnosed with bowel cancer and liver metastasis.
I had an operation on both my bowel and my liver along with chemotherapy and was on the road of treatment , appointments and nurses. You just go with the flow of it and with the support of family and friends and you come out the other end.
However I did come to a stage after my liver operation last year when I was embarking on second lot of chemo and I just felt I wasn’t in the same frame of mind as I had been when I had my initial chemo. And also my liver surgery wasn’t as easy a journey as I thought it was going to be.
I’m a very independent get up and go person and all of a sudden I wasn’t able to do what I wanted and how I wanted to do it. That’s when I felt I needed some extra help and decided to speak to my bowel specialist nurse who referred me to St Richard’s.
A nurse came to my house to see me but I was struggling with some symptoms. I was constipated and I had been given some sachets to take and the volume of liquid was making me nauseous with my chemo. This lovely nurse said, ‘ I can sort that out, I can put a prescription in with the doctor and get it orally in tablets’. And something so simple made such a huge difference. So it started right from that moment when the nurse visited and I’ve never looked back. I’ve told so many people about St Richard’s because it was just what I needed at the right time.
After talking to the hospice about what would help me, I joined the Coping with Illness course. I naively thought it would be all people with cancer as it’s a hospice and I was pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t. There were three of us with cancer, and two others with other life changing illnesses. It was remarkable because with all brought different things into the group.
I just felt that right from the very first day we all met we all got on extremely well. The two nurses and psychologist and the five of us all agreed that whatever we discussed was confidential and would remain within those walls and we were all honest. You basically went there and took from the group what you wanted. If you wanted to go and listen and not participate you could. If you wanted to go and have a cry like I often did, because of what I was trying to express and sort out, that was acceptable too
When you are ill and are suffering with your sleep, bowel pattern or suffering with your mood swings – little things you would normally take with a pinch of salt and just deal with – you don’t realise other people are dealing with exactly the same. This group allowed you to realise you weren’t the only person going through what you were going through. We discussed ways to help each other.
On the course we were also taught tips on how to deal with things – how to offload your mind, to put your worries on a leaf and letting them float down the stream, and having a ‘toolbox’ or imaginary place where worries/thoughts can be put to try and avoid them dominating your thoughts. Discussing ways to reduce your worries when you’re dealing with illness is so vital for a healthier mind.
I was aiming to get back to work as soon as I could as a pre-admission nurse and get back to my normal life style.
As well as attending the coping with Illness course I also saw a counsellor at the hospice. I had never seen a counsellor, so wasn’t sure what to expect. By talking things through with her and shedding yet some more tears I found the sessions really beneficial in helping me move forward with my life.
After I finished the course and counselling I was told that St Richard’s that they are just at the end of the phone. I might have left now but I know the support is still there if the cancer reoccurs. I felt I was a lucky one having been given support and managing to pick myself back up.
I’m back at work and sometimes it all seems a bit surreal – I ask myself did those 16 months really happen?
There are many more people like me, who have had a brush with cancer and survived and are fortunate to be able to go back to their normal lifestyle. But a lot of people think of a hospice where people go to die. They don’t often know about the other services the hospice offers because they find it too uncomfortable to talk about. People are living longer and also coping with disease and illness better, and without doubt still need support.
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