“I love Christmas, it’s my favourite time of the year.”
Every December great-grandma Sheila Wilkinson looks forward to brightening her home with beautiful decorations for her and the family to enjoy.
But last year, after weeks in hospital feeling unwell with an illness doctors couldn’t get to the bottom of, she was feeling so down that she threw most of her decorations in the bin.
“I was so depressed and had been in hospital so long I just decided that was it and chucked them away,” she explains.
But now, 12 months on, and with the support of her family and our community Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) team, Sheila is feeling much more positive – and her Plungington home is glittering and glowing with festive magic once more.
“I may not be able to do it all myself anymore,” Sheila says, “but I can still direct proceedings! My family have been brilliant, helping me to get everything ready – but they still know I’m the boss. I’ve taken my time and persevered – I’m really pleased with how it all looks, it makes me feel good seeing everything in its place.”
It was in April this year that Sheila, who also lives with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), was finally diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given the news it was incurable.
Soon after she began receiving support at home from the St Catherine’s CNS team – a group of experienced nurses who work in the communities across Chorley, Preston and South Ribble delivering specialised symptom management and psychological support in the places people call home.
Sheila, aged 72 who lives alone following the death of husband Joe 13 years ago, said: “Everyone has been great since my diagnosis – especially St Catherine’s.
“Suzanne, my CNS, comes each fortnight and in between time I’m never alone – I know there is someone at the end of the phone if I need some extra help or advice.
“She has been wonderful at sorting things out like the Lifeline system I’m now connected to – meaning if I have a fall or get into trouble with anything I just have to press the button on the string round my neck and it raises the alarm.
“I was struggling with my breathing because of the COPD and she sorted me out with a nebuliser which I use four times a day and which is really starting to help, and she’s also made changes to my medication which has made a difference. Suzanne works with my doctors and the district nurses to make sure everything is in place – I wouldn’t know where to start, so it’s great to have her help.”
Together with support from her family – which includes her three children, six grand-children and three great-grandchildren – it means Sheila is in a much happier place compared to last Christmas.
She is looking forward to welcoming relatives round to her beautifully decorated home over the festive season, and to celebrating Christmas Day with them at her daughter’s house.
“I am feeling so much more positive than this time last year,” Sheila said.
“That means such a lot to me because Christmas is so important to me and my family. When the children were little I really went to town – there were decorations everywhere, and even a little train running around the house!
“Both my own mum and dad loved Christmas – they couldn’t wait to get the tree up and the presents around it. I think that’s passed down to me.”
Sheila – who vowed to ‘stay positive and take life a day at a time’ following her diagnosis – said she was grateful to be at home in familiar surroundings for the festivities, and thankful for the support she is receiving to help make that possible.
She said: “Christmas for me starts on the first of December and I love being at home seeing all my decorations up – it makes me smile when I come down in the morning.
“But above all Christmas is about family, everyone coming together, and I’m so happy to be here to enjoy it with them.”