Losing someone is always something that happens to someone else, something you hear about but doesn’t affect you. That’s until it does.
I am very lucky to have had a very close relationship to both my maternal and paternal grandparents. I grew up with both sets having a very active role in my upbringing.
My Nan – ‘Diddy’
My Nan in particular was very active, ‘Diddy’ as she was known, still taught tap dancing lessons, played in the hand-bell group at the local church, went on trips to London and North Norfolk visiting flower and sewing shows and cycled to the supermarket to carry out the weekly food shop for her and my grandad. Out of the blue in March 2012 Nan was diagnosed with cancer of the vulva, a rare cancer with a 9 out of 10 success rate. That summer Nan endured a round of chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy, always being reminded of the 9 out of 10 success rate. During the treatment I got engaged and as a family we looked forward to completing the treatment, ‘getting over this blip’ and celebrating at the wedding. The consultant check up at the end of the October showed that the treatment hadn’t been as successful as was hoped and they sadly didn’t feel that there was anything further they could do. With the support of the community nurses we were able to follow Nan’s wishes of being in a hospice, a place where her then complex care could be looked after and she could spend ‘quality’ time with us all. After three weeks in Priscilla Bacon Lodge Nan passed away peacefully with my mum and Grandad with her.
Gramps had been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer 15 years ago
My Grandad (Gramps) on my paternal side had been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer fifteen years ago. Following two successful radiotherapy rounds and ongoing chemotherapy pills his PSA count (the measurement of prostate cancer) had been kept at bay. A check up in 2010 revealed that although the cancer was under control it had spread to his bones and was terminal. Gramps was referred to the palliative care team but it was stressed that it was nowhere near the end, he could continue to lead a comfortable and active life with my nan, going on holidays, taking his daily walks into the city and continuing to watch Norfolk Bowls Club tour the country playing bowls. Just before my wedding Gramps started to require blood transfusions, the reason was unknown but his red blood cell count seemed to drop every couple of months, a common side effect of the chemotherapy pill for his PSA count, and he required a blood transfusion. Steadily throughout 2014 and the beginning of 2015 the transfusions were more frequent with the effects not lasting as long, Gramps grew increasingly tired and complained of pains in his legs and back. One Sunday in August I received a panicked call from my Nan, Gramps was unresponsive in his chair and we called an ambulance. The ambulance crew took us to the local hospital where it showed Gramps red blood cell count was very low, he was put on an emergency transfusion and would receive another nine units over the next 24 hours. After several scans, tests and consultations it was revealed that the cancer in the bones had attacked the structure allowing the blood to escape which was why he required more transfusions and as the cancer continued to attack they were lasting for shorter lengths of time. Further scans revealed that the cancer had spread to the lungs. It was decided as a family that Priscilla Bacon Lodge would be the best place to receive the care and support both Gramps and we as a family needed. The one bedroomed flat that he and my nan shared was not big enough for all the equipment that he would require and constant nursing was draining for all, the hospice would mean that Gramps would receive the 24/7 care he required, in a comfortable setting and pastoral care was available for the family as well. My last birthday with my Gramps in the September was made very special with the staff throwing me a surprise tea party with him – something that I will not forget and helped to make extra special memories at a time when we knew we didn’t have much time left. Gramps passed away a week later with me, my nan, Dad and my husband by his side.
My stepdad, Brian, started experiencing stomach pains in December 2015
My stepdad, Brian, started experiencing stomach pains and passed blood in December 2015. After visiting his GP it was put down to IBS but he continued to visit after the pain was not subsiding. After the pain got to the point that it was excruciating he visited A&E in March 2016, an overnight stay and a scan revealed that there was a mass in the bowel which needed to be removed. A permanent stoma bag was fitted which subsided the pain however vomiting continued to be a problem. Further tests revealed that there was a mass in the bile duct which connects the liver to the pancreas, an area which cannot be treated at this present time. Four weeks after visiting A&E we received the devastating news that the cancer was terminal and we would be referred to the palliative care team. My stepdad and Mum had been together for 22 years but never married and throughout the tests the scans they planned and vowed to get married. On 14th May my mum and step dad got married with my husband as best man and me and my two sisters as bridesmaids. Brian passed away five days later in Priscilla Bacon Lodge leaving behind my mum, me and my 20 and 16 yr old sisters.
Making an an unbearable time more bearable
To be in a position where you have a relative requiring care from a hospice is not going to be nice however, the staff and facility make an unbearable time more bearable. Through each of the occasions the staff helped to ensure that you spend quality time with the person that you love, you can continue to be their mother, father, daughter or partner rather than their carer. The staff are there to provide support not just to the patient but to the rest of the family giving guidance and advice where needed and deliver first class care in a field which they know best.