Jack Woodbridge was just 31 years old when he was diagnosed with late-stage stomach cancer. Overnight, life turned upside down for Jack, his wife Emma and their young daughter Niamh – but the team at the hospice provided much-needed care for the whole family at an incredibly difficult time.
When Emma met her future husband Jack on a night out with friends she had an instinctive sense from the first glance that he would become an important person in her life. That turned out to be an understatement.
The couple met up five times in the week after their first meeting and married two years later just before Christmas 2018, in Greenwich. ‘Jack had proposed in New York in the February and we got wed in December,’ Emma recalls.
‘It was a lovely wedding and Jack really wanted our guests to be looked after. It was a beautiful day. Jack was funny and loved a bit of banter. His loyalty to those he loved was on another level and he was incredibly thoughtful. He took pride in whatever he did.’
When Emma and Jack’s daughter Niamh was born on New Year’s Day 2020 their little family was complete, and during the early months of the Coronavirus lockdown they were in their own little bubble.
‘Looking back on that time I’m so grateful,’ Emma says. ‘Jack was a really good cook and when we weaned Niamh he made everything from scratch. I’m talking vegetable stock made three days in advance for spaghetti bolognaise!’ In April 2021, Jack started his dream job as a sneaker authenticator for eBay, but by the late summer of that year, was struggling with a bad back and sickness.
He went to see his GP and tragically a scan revealed Jack had late-stage stomach cancer, which had spread to his liver. In mid-October the couple received the heartbreaking news that the disease had spread to Jack’s bones and he started chemotherapy treatment. He was told he had just a year to 18 months left.
‘Being told Jack’s cancer was terminal was something else,’ Emma recalls frankly. ‘It was like feeling everything and completely empty all at once. Our first thoughts of course were of Niamh.
‘Jack turned to me and said: ‘Well, this is a bit rubbish isn’t it.’ We ended up laughing. That was Jack all over – matter of fact.
‘I didn’t think about the fact Jack was going to die – I couldn’t.’
Around this time the hospice reached out to the family, with one of the specialist nurses making a home visit and chatting everything through with them. Emma explains ‘The hospice told us they were here for us, whatever we needed, and I don’t think we realised at the time just what that meant. I knew I could call the hospice at any time and that level of care was so important. I discussed Jack’s medication with the team and they helped to provide us with equipment we needed to keep him comfortable at home.’
Jack was able to enjoy a family Christmas and a second birthday party for Niamh, for which he made the cake. With the support and encouragement of the hospice team, Jack and Emma were even able to take Niamh to Legoland. Incredibly he passed away the day after they returned home. ‘Jack’s mind, will, everything that made him Jack, was still there in abundance – but his body couldn’t keep up,’ Emma says. ‘I called the hospice and one of the nurses came out to see us that night.
‘Later Jack woke me to tell me he couldn’t breathe. He slipped away in hospital the following morning. You can’t prepare for it – the love of your life passing away.
‘Before this I didn’t realise how much help hospices can provide. Just knowing I could call and speak to someone was a lifeline. Everything at the hospice is so personal to each family. The support for Jack and for me, the person left behind, was so important. It was about care management, medication, just to talk – whatever we needed.’
Emma has since had in-person bereavement counselling via the hospice and now works there as PA to the clinical leads. ‘Nothing was ever too much for the hospice nurses. They got the level of care Jack wanted just right. They really knew us and understood our personal difficulties. The care we received was truly personal to our family.’