In his first blog for St Catherine’s, 42-year-old David Smith talks about his initial worries about coming to the hospice, and what it’s been like for him and his family since he arrived here.
These past few months have been a roller-coaster. I really didn’t expect to be sitting in a hospice at this point in my life, thinking about my bucket list.
It started when I began experiencing stomach pains in April and went into hospital for tests.
A CT scan showed that I have a large cluster of lymph nodes above my pancreas, and I’ve been diagnosed with cancer of an unknown primary, which means they don’t know where it’s coming from at this stage.
They believe it’s gastric and in my lymph nodes, and I’m due a PET scan soon to find out more. Then I’ll be given a treatment plan and will just take each day as it comes, but I’ve been told I have months left rather than years.
For now, I’m in St Catherine’s for pain relief and symptom management, but I have to admit I had massive apprehensions when the hospice was first mentioned to me. I made all sorts of excuses not to come, because I just thought it meant the end. Being here has really opened my eyes to what hospices are like.
The quality of care, and the attentiveness, passion and knowledge of the staff here is incredible. The volunteers are really friendly, the food is unbelievably good, and the surroundings are amazing.
My friends have commented that it’s a really uplifting place and they can already see a difference in me. I think they’ve been surprised about what St Catherine’s is like too.
My four-year-old niece has visited and she loved running around the gardens, and she’s drawn me some pictures for the walls in my room. It’s just nice to be able to spend time with my friends and family in such a welcoming environment where there’s expert care on hand too.
It’s really taken the pressure off me and my girlfriend Steph as well. She was doing so much for me at home, looking after me and doing all the cooking and cleaning because I was struggling, and it was horrible not being able to help her.
Now, we can just be us again, and do normal things as a couple without the cancer taking over everything. We’ve been watching Stranger Things and reading the paper – just little things that we used to take for granted – but it just feels like we haven’t been able to just be us for such a long time.
Coming to St Catherine’s has been life-changing really. It’s given me a whole new perspective and my priorities have changed. The doctors have been very real and honest with me about my prognosis, which has actually helped us because it’s given us a drive to tick some of the things off our bucket list. It’s given me a bit of hope and something to focus on.
I’m hoping I can plan a trip to London for me and Steph, and I also really want to raise money for the hospice because it’s really shocked me to learn how much charity St Catherine’s relies on to provide this service. It’s given me some fight back to do something to help.
I’m going to shave my head along with Steph’s son William, and we’ve already raised hundreds of pounds on JustGiving which is amazing! I’m looking forward to letting you know how we get on and sharing photos with you in the coming weeks, and I’ll keep you updated on my journey.
Thank you for reading,
David, from Wheelton, is a performance support manager who helps people find employment, and is currently receiving palliative care from St Catherine’s Hospice
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