A daughter whose beloved mum got her wish of being cared for by St Catherine’s Hospice following a devastating cancer diagnosis, is using her artistic talents to support the charity and remember her ‘best friend’ this Christmas.
Natalie Spencer was nervous about her mum, Gabrielle Spencer, coming to stay on the hospice’s inpatient unit, but soon saw how the caring staff and volunteers helped manage her mum’s pain and enable her to be more comfortable in her final days.
“My mum was diagnosed with bowel cancer in early 2015,” Natalie said. “Being the most brave, super woman I’ve ever known, she took on the challenge of intensive chemotherapy to prolong her life. But it came to the point where it was hard for her to be at home because she needed much more care than we could give her.
“She knew she wanted the care of St Catherine’s after our relatives were cared for there, so she asked her district nurse to put it in motion and she was admitted in November last year. I knew that was where she wanted to be and she felt much more comfortable being looked after by the hospice’s amazing team.”
Natalie, 27, from Buckshaw Village, runs her own design and illustration business called Designed By Natalie, and has now used her talents to create Christmas cards in memory of her mum, with proceeds being donated to the hospice.
She explained: “My mum loved my design work so I thought there would be no better way than to design some Christmas cards in honour of her and to raise money for St Catherine’s.”
Gabrielle, from Walton-le-Dale, initially suffered from stomach ache and was led to believe she had a hernia. But several scans in 2015 revealed that she had bowel cancer and further investigations showed it was incurable.
“We were shocked and completely devastated,” Natalie said. “She deteriorated much more quickly than I ever imagined.
“When she went to St Catherine’s, I had mixed feelings because I knew she’d left the family home forever, which was very hard for me, my dad and brother.
“But it’s a wonderful place and the staff were so amazing; mum really loved them. They made us all feel at home and the care was second to none. They were always happy to help and offer a friendly smile which put everyone at ease. They really did put my mum first and provided the care that we couldn’t give her, for which we are forever grateful.”
Gabrielle, who worked in admin at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, died nine days after coming to the hospice on November 14, aged just 56.
“I miss my mum every day – she was my best friend and I have really struggled with her loss,” Natalie said. “The only thing that makes me feel a little better is knowing that she is no longer in pain and hopefully she is watching over me and I am making her proud.
“I now feel a little stronger to do something to help such an amazing charity which is very close to my heart, which is why I’ve chosen to design Christmas cards to raise funds, so that St Catherine’s can continue to care for people like my wonderful, brave mum.”
Lorraine Charlesworth, director of community and income at the hospice, said: “This is a truly heartfelt and meaningful way for Natalie to show her support for St Catherine’s and we’re very grateful to her for using these beautiful Christmas cards to raise awareness and funds for the hospice.
“We’re pleased that the compassionate care of our nurses helped Natalie’s mum and her family at such a difficult time, and allowed them precious time together here at St Catherine’s.
“As a charity, we really couldn’t continue to be there for local families without the amazing generosity of our community, so we’d like to thank Natalie for her wonderful support.”