When local postman, 64-year-old Andy, was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in January 2022, he thought that the hospice was ‘like room 101. Where people just go to die.’ Luckily, he’s changed his mind. Andy and his wife of 36 years, Jayne, kindly took the time to tell us about their experiences.
‘It was when I was at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich that I met Jolomi (a doctor in the hospice’s palliative care team based at the hospital). She was brilliant. She explained everything the hospice could do to help me in detail, gently, and said to think about it, there was no pressure, I could go as and when I felt ready to. The cancer had progressed quicker than expected; it was daunting and premature. Jolomi helped me to understand that at the hospice it’s about the person, not simply the ‘patient’.
I basically thought I was just going to the hospice to die and I accepted that. But how wrong was I? When I got there I was met by a doctor who talked to me for a full 40 minutes. He was very in-depth, and holistic; he wasn’t just asking me about my illness and medication, but also how I felt, what I expected and wanted. We live down the road, and my sister died here, and yet I don’t think we really understood what palliative care meant until now.
We both knew I was in capable hands
From the first night it was just bliss, so calm and I had great care from all the staff there. Jayne and I were both just able to relax. She stayed the first few nights with me, but when she was at home, she knew I’d be safe and her mind at rest knowing I’d be looked after. We both knew I was in capable hands and the team were so quick to deal with any issues that came up.
I loved being there compared to the hospital as it was so serene; not boring but serene. People could take pets for a visit, take an instrument in to play, have a drink if they wanted. The grounds are beautiful and over the week and half of my visit they looked after me and my wife on a holistic level making sure we were both ok mentally and physically. The Physio got me out of my bed for walks and the food was all home cooked in the hospice, three-course meals. The food there is amazing, and they made whatever I like! The chef got to know everyone, and what we all liked to eat. Jayne and I say it’s like a medical hotel.
Whilst there they reviewed my medication and I’m now more alert, feeling more like me. Basically, the hospice got me well enough to go home and I now have the hospice community nurse coming to visit me once a day.
My main point is, if anyone else is in a similar position to me, do not fear the idea of a hospice. I wish to dispel any misapprehensions you may have like I did. I was 100% wrong in my attitude, vision and thoughts of what a hospice is. So many people go there for respite care or to get well enough to go home and do not die there. So I’d say don’t fear the hospice. You’ll be looked after; you’ll have dignity and care and rest.’