Vivien’s Story

"The idea that hospices are only supporting you at the end of your days and for the last moments is completely wrong."

In her early 30s, Vivien Smith was diagnosed with primary breast cancer, underwent several operations and was treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Unfortunately, despite the operations and treatments she received, the cancer spread, and she developed secondary cancer in her bones. Aged 40, Vivien is living with a terminal diagnosis.

“When I came to the hospice, I was physically weak and very, very demoralised about what I would physically be able to do in the future. I was told that I would never walk again, but I didn’t accept that as a reality.”

Prior to her diagnosis, Vivien had worked in the hospitality industry, a job which took her all over the world. “I was very determined to keep active, but by the time I was introduced to the Lodge, I couldn’t exercise. Due to my condition, everyone wanted to keep me safe, and treated me as though I had to be wrapped in cotton wool. As I am relatively young, this was distressing, and my situation was totally isolating.”

Vivien attends weekly outpatient sessions at the Lodge and the experience has transformed her life. “Everything changed after I came to Priscilla Bacon Lodge. I was protected, and without wanting to sound schmaltzy, it felt like a warm embrace. At our sessions, we are a group of people who’ve received difficult news and are having a challenging life experience, but psychologically we are all in the same boat. We can empathize with each other and help each other in addition to the support we receive through the staff at the Lodge. There is sadness, but there is also hope and joy. The sessions bring a group of us together, where we have our shared experience. The Lodge gives us the space to laugh and dark humour is not considered shocking.”

The Day Unit at the Lodge helps people to live with their terminal conditions, supporting them to live their best possible lives. Vivien explains: “The idea that hospices are only supporting you at the end of your days and for the last moments is completely wrong. It’s about inclusive care, it supports you, encourages you and enables you to do more and to push yourself harder.”

“The hospice is a life-changing service. When you find yourself in this situation, it can be horribly confronting. I didn’t expect at 40 years of age to be counting
down my days, but the strength that I have gained has been immeasurable, from being part of the groups, and through the service delivered here at the Lodge. The hospice facilitates living!”