Janet praises the care of St Catherine’s as nation marks Hospice Care Week
A woman living with pancreatic cancer is feeling like a ‘different person’ 12 months on from being given the devastating news the illness had returned thanks to the care and support she has received from St Catherine’s Hospice.
Janet McConville is looking forward to celebrating her 60th birthday this month with a party welcoming family and friends, just over a year on from being told her cancer was now incurable.
She was advised chemotherapy would help manage her condition, but the gruelling weekly sessions took their toll not only physically but also emotionally on the grandmother-of-four.
Janet says she couldn’t have got through the treatment programme without the specialised support of St Catherine’s staff, who helped her overcome her anxieties and taught her effective techniques to help her relax.
Her weekly Day Therapy sessions at the Lostock Hall hospice also helped her cope with the new reality of her situation by offering access to psychological support, diversional activities like baking and craft work, and peer support from other people facing similar experiences.
Now, a year on from her first contact with St Catherine’s, Janet is speaking out about her experiences as the country marks Hospice Care Week – a national campaign which aims to raise awareness of the importance of hospice care.
Janet, from Lostock Hall, said: “Right from day one at the hospice I felt like I was at home.
“I had no idea what to expect but the atmosphere is so genuine and friendly. I knew it was going to be okay when I walked through the doors.
“To go from feelings of ‘I have made it’ two years earlier following my surgery, to being told the cancer had returned and there was nothing more they could do, was absolutely shattering.
“But the care and support I received from the staff at St Catherine’s helped me through. Now I am looking forward to celebrating my 60th birthday with everyone I love – I feel like a different person compared to last year. St Catherine’s helped me to feel ‘normal’ again – they gave me my life back.”
This year’s Hospice Care Week – which sees St Catherine’s join forces with more than 100 other hospices across the UK – focuses on raising awareness of the giteming need for hospice care.
It highlights that as people live longer and with more complex needs, the need for the kind of quality, personalised care hospices offer is increasing. . The slogan for the awareness-raising week is: Every moment counts. Every action counts. Because you count.
During the week, St Catherine’s is asking local people to take the Count me in! pledge – promising to tell five people why hospice care counts.
Janet, a retired receptionist at the University of Central Lancashire, said she is always working to spread the word of the good work of St Catherine’s.
“I tell lots of people about my experiences of the hospice and am really happy to support Hospice Care Week,” she said. “I do think there is still a problem with people having the wrong impression about what St Catherine’s is like – that it might be a frightening or morbid place, but it’s really not the case.
“I’m not sure where I’d be if St Catherine’s hadn’t stepped in. I wasn’t coping very well with the chemotherapy at all – my anxiety levels were so high, it just wore me out.
“But the occupational therapist who worked with me was absolutely fantastic – she even came along to the hospital for two of my appointments. The breathing exercises and the relaxation and distraction techniques she taught me were so calming and helpful. It had got to the stage where I didn’t want to carry on with the chemotherapy – I’m so grateful for what she did to help me overcome this and continue with the treatment.”
Janet said she had also enjoyed her weekly day therapy sessions at the hospice, where she took part in a variety of activities and enjoyed the social interaction with others going through similar experiences.
She also benefited from sessions with the complementary therapists and hairdresser, as well as psychological support from the specialist nurses who allowed difficult conversations to take place.
“I used to leave the hospice feeling like a million dollars!” Janet said.
“In amongst the hospital appointments and tests and treatments, it was a day for me, a day I looked forward to, and I made some really good friends. Even on the days where I was feeling down, I would come away feeling better. I am good at hiding things, but the staff at St Catherine’s are so intuitive – they’d talk to me, find out what was troubling me, and help me through. They are such compassionate, genuine people, I felt physically supported by them.”
The support she received – along with her determination to fight the condition with positivity– is continuing to help Janet live life to the full.
Along with a deep appreciation for the ‘simple things’ in her life – from playing with her grandsons to pottering around the garden – Janet has also been enjoying new adventures over the spring and summer.
In May she and her husband Robert – who gives his time twice a week to volunteer at the hospice – went on a West Mediterranean cruise, and then in June she travelled to Tunisia for two fantastic weeks in the sunshine.
A week in Dorset – where she and Robert celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary – followed in September, and now she is busy making plans for her birthday bash later this month.
“I feel so much better than I did this time last year,” Janet said.
“When you surround yourself with such genuine, kind people like those at St Catherine’s it does something to your spirit inside. It makes everything seem worthwhile again.”
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