There can be times when an unexpected experience changes a person’s entire perception of life. It happened to me!
I was born and raised in New Longton, and relocated to Virginia, USA, in the early 70’s. Yet, England will always be a part of my soul. Over the last few years I spent several months in England, taking care of my aunt, who was diagnosed in December 2014, with pancreatic cancer.
Upon diagnosis, she was immediately admitted to Chorley Hospital, doctors there placed a stent in her bile duct blocked by the tumor. The procedure, though difficult for her, went extremely well and after a month of convalescing she was able to return to a relatively normal life.
After the holiday season, Auntie was invited to attend Day Therapy at St Catherine’s Hospice. This is where my story begins. Through excerpts from my personal diary, I would like to invite you to return with me, and experience the emotional but rewarding path of taking care of someone in the final stages of their life in a place filled with angels – St Catherine’s Hospice.
Monday, January 12, 2015
Get up around 8:00 a.m. With fingers crossed hoping to attend our first Day Therapy session at St Catherine’s Hospice. I have heard this is a programme for out-patients, giving them an opportunity to meet others and spend a day interacting through various activities.
Auntie Irene is very hesitant to go. I know change is difficult for her. She always worries about walking into a room where she doesn’t know anyone. She is really dragging her feet this morning. (Thank goodness the staff at Day Therapy understood this fear and invited me to attend Auntie’s first two visits with her, until she feels more comfortable in her surroundings.) Our driver, Bill, arrives promptly at 9:40 a.m. He is extremely nice and Auntie chats away with him. He lives in Gill Lane, where Auntie grew up – so they have something in common – hallelujah!
Upon arrival at the Hospice, as she is warmly greeted by front-desk personnel, I sense Auntie’s nerves are calming down. “Good morning, Irene. How are you today?” Bill escorts both of us to the second floor where we walk into a sun-filled room filled with happy chatter. Both Auntie and I are immediately greeted by Anne-Marie, day therapy sister, who asks us if we would like a cup of tea and a biscuit.
As the day evolves, I feel so happy and relieved to see Auntie enjoying this wonderful experience. Leslie does her hair, Barbara massages her feet. In a cosy dining room, she has a home-made lunch of mashed potatoes, pork chops, veggies, sponge cake and custard. I am amazed at how much she is eating, as her appetite has been so small lately!
Following lunch we return to the sun-filled room for a short, intimate church service. In the car, on the way home, Auntie chats away to Bill about her first day in Day-Therapy. It is the first-time I have seen her so animated in a long time.
At long last, I feel a comforting peace, from knowing there is a caring programme like this to support Auntie and myself through her final months. On one occasion the local Mayors visited and Auntie Irene really enjoyed meeting and chatting with them, as you can see in the photograph above.
Day-Therapy continued for 12 more weeks and Auntie Irene attended up until two weeks before she passed. It brought so much love, caring and friendship into her final months – it actually extended her life!