Ellis Belcher, from Sidcup, Kent, will be running the London Marathon in October 2022 in aid of Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice after we cared for her grandparents Victor and Pauline Belcher.
The couple had been married for over 60 years and were 79 and 81 when they sadly died. The whole Belcher family had been involved in caring for them, including their daughter, Ellis’ Aunt Lesley. Here Ellis and Lesley explain what a difference support from the hospice made to them at a very difficult time.
“I was really close to my grandparents,” Ellis says. “I did show-jumping as a child and Granddad was my biggest supporter. He was a retired London black cab driver and a real character.”
“I used to go to Nan with all my problems. Nan and Grandad were always there for me and my sister Jerrie.”
“When Granddad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July 2019 it was a real shock. The only si
gn that something was wrong was that he’d lost some weight. His GP arranged for some blood tests and he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Granddad was told that there was nothing really that could be done.”
“At first I couldn’t believe it. We’d only had a 60th wedding anniversary party for them weeks earlier. They’d received a letter from the Queen.” The Hospice were involved with Victor’s care from the beginning. The hospice community team cared for him largely at home before he died in November 2019, also helping the family to have equipment, including a clinical recliner chair, delivered to keep him comfortable there for as long as possible.
Ellis explains: “Granddad went into the hospice three days before he died. By this stage the hospice at home carers were coming out on regular visits and had some important conversations with him which we appreciated. Granddad wanted to understand what was going to happen.”
“The hospice also gave my Nan amazing support at a very difficult time. She felt relief that Granddad received such good care and it helped us knowing that she wasn’t on her own. At the end of his life, he was peaceful and contented at the hospice.”
The day after Victor died, Pauline sadly fell over in her garden and broke her arm. She went to stay with Lesley, and never went home.
“The hospice staff were so reassuring,” Lesley recalls. “Mum wasn’t sleeping because of her arm but the Hospice team came out to see her and got a hospital bed delivered.”
“It was during the spring of 2020 when Mum was diagnosed with multiple myeloma with amyloidosis – a rare type of bone marrow cancer. That time is really a blur.”
After undergoing chemotherapy for a short period, Pauline decided to stop treatment. The hospice’s community nurses were keeping her comfortable, caring for her at home.
“The nurses really knew their stuff,” Lesley says. “Due to them Mum had seamless care. “The hospice even sent out their health care assistants when I needed help with Mum’s personal care.”
“By mid-April 2021 Mum had deteriorated and really needed inpatient care, and thankfully the hospice managed to find her a bed. She went in on the Wednesday and passed away peacefully on the Sunday.”
“We were able to spend some quality time with her. The nurses had picked up on the fact that I was struggling with the thought of Mum dying at home, and she wanted to go into the hospice because after our experience with Dad she knew she would be well looked after.”
“Mum’s welfare was so important to the staff and they took care of all the small details. I can’t tell you the difference that made.”
“The hospice know that people don’t fit into pigeon holes, and with chronically ill patients no one size fits all. They offered individualised care. They had calm conversations with Mum about her end of life. They helped me by helping her.”
“I think the positive end of life experience my mum had should be available to everyone. The hospice team got it so right with both my parents. When I left Mum there I knew she was going to be looked after properly and treated with respect all the way through.”
Ellis concludes: “With both Nan and Granddad we knew that with support from the hospice we weren’t alone. The nurses did little things that meant so much – like helping Nan to have a little of the fizzy drink she loved. They offered exactly the right balance of support and space.”
“I’ve always wanted to run a marathon and our experience has spurred me on to do it. I’m aiming to raise £2,000 for the hospice. I want to tell everyone I know about the amazing work they do.”
“And I also know that Nan and Granddad would be so proud of me.”