Paula Hancock shares her experience of St Richard’s and their care of her mum
My mum Noreen Hancock was diagnosed with bowel cancer in early January 2011 when she was 56. She was transferred to Worcester Royal where she had surgery to remove the tumour. Mum started to receive chemotherapy treatment, but by the spring the swelling in her tummy had not gone down and further tests showed it had spread to her ovaries. After more surgery it was also discovered in her liver. She went downhill pretty rapidly after this, and in May 2011 we were told that there was nothing more that could be done, but she was asked if she would like to be referred to St Richard’s, to which she immediately agreed.
I had no idea up till then what a hospice is or what it does, but it was the best decision ever made. Mum was transferred to St Richard’s and after quite a traumatic journey, we made our arrival. Whilst the kind nurses helped Mum settle into her room, we were led into the lounge area to wait. At first it seemed so quiet and I wasn’t sure what to make of it. But after we were shown around, and we saw the luxury of Mum’s room we were soon reassured that this was the best place to be given the circumstance. The beautiful gardens offered a place for us to walk or just sit, admiring the fabulous flowers, allowing us a break away.
Mum stayed in St Richard’s for 3 weeks and 6 days until the end. In that time, we got to know the staff so well, not just the doctors and nurses, but the volunteers and everyone else who is involved in this most wonderful place. Everyone cared, and I mean literally everyone from the doctors and nurses, to the front desk volunteers and the cleaners, who were always so kind and thoughtful, stopping to see how we were doing and really taking an interest. It was so heart warming. Of all the time that Mum was ill, those weeks in St Richard’s were the best. The doctors made sure that Mum was able to enjoy the rest of her time, and that we could enjoy that time with her also, wheeling her bed out through the patio doors to see the ducks, having fun with jigsaws. One of the doctors even made sure that Mum’s medication was such that I could spend a “girlie night in” with her, doing our nails, giving her a facial, and a unique hand massage technique taught by one of the Health Care Assistants. The dedication of everyone there was remarkable.
“I know that Mum touched the hearts of the staff at the hospice. She even had the cheek to ask the Medical Director to order in some better weather! But the last few days were the hardest of all. The disease is so wretched, and nothing could have prepared us for what happened to Mum, but the staff were so supportive and most especially towards the end. I realised the final day was here when each of the nurses came in one by one to see Mum, when in actual fact they had come to say their goodbyes”
We were able to be with Mum at the end, and we were able to say goodbye together. As a family, we still receive support from the hospice. Dad and I are still receiving counselling provided by fantastic volunteers, and without them we wouldn’t be where we are today. We are moving on, making progress, slowly but surely. It’s so incredibly tough, but we are so grateful to you, St Richard’s for the time you gave us with Mum and for the support you continue to give us. We will be forever in your debt. We cannot thank you enough.
Photo: Noreen Hancock and husband Ian.