Losing her mum to stage four rectal cancer turned Victoria Hornby’s world upside down, and there were times when she felt completely overwhelmed and frightened about her mum’s final days.
Here Victoria, 37, from Penwortham, shares her experience and tells how the care and support provided by St Catherine’s Hospice made all the difference during such a difficult time, and helped her to create precious memories with her wonderful mum Elaine.
Making the choice to move from hospital to St Catherine’s Hospice was the best decision my mum made for her quality of life at the end of her life. She was diagnosed with cancer in June 2018 and had her first chemotherapy in the August, and sadly suffered a rare side effect and developed a blood clot in her right leg. This resulted in her having to have her leg amputated from above the knee in September 2018.
It was then only two weeks after the amputation she was told she only had months left to live. Cancer is scary and heart-breaking enough on its own, but coupled with a life-changing operation which meant she couldn’t walk meant that her care needs were even more complex.
When we got to the hospice we were both scared of what was going to come – absolutely petrified. But St Catherine’s enabled me and my mum to support each other through the worst time of both of our lives. I would end up in tears, worried about those final days and final moments. I didn’t know what to expect. But the nurses would reassure me and try their best to prepare me for what was to come.
They freed me up to be a daughter again – that’s what they were there for, to relieve me of some of that pressure of being a carer, allowing me to spend every moment with my mum and maximising that quality time we could spend together. St Catherine’s reunited us as mother and daughter.
They would do fish and chip Fridays, and we could order a Chinese takeaway on a Saturday and just watch TV like The Chase and Doctor Foster together in a peaceful and tranquil environment, away from the hustle and bustle of the hospital. My mum loved her garden-view room too, where she could see the beautiful grounds.
They also made us an amazing Afternoon Tea for Mother’s Day. They went above and beyond to provide something enjoyable for us on what was actually such a sad day, because we both knew that was going to be our last Mother’s Day together. It meant the world to us, and it’s something that I will remember and be grateful for forever.
They also arranged for her to have a bubble bath which she loved. It sounds so simple; but washing her hair, having it blow dried and styled, it’s those little things that you take for granted but that really put a smile on my mum’s face. It just made her feel human and somewhat normal again.
At such a heart-breaking and horrific time, it’s those personal details and touches which helped us to feel like we weren’t just in this tunnel where there was only darkness at the end of it.
St Catherine’s became a home-from-home because Mum could have all of her creature comforts from her house in Preston brought in – we filled her room with photos and we always looked forward to ‘Flower Friday’ when volunteers would bring in beautiful arrangements of flowers which had been donated to the hospice. My Mum’s favourites were daffodils and yellow roses.
She also adored my boxer dog Mia, and the hospice even allowed her to come in and visit which Mum was over the moon about. That was a really heartfelt and emotional moment.
Mum’s birthday was the day before she passed away. The room was decorated with banners and balloons and the nurses went out of their way to get a birthday cake and a card signed by them all. They all gathered round to sing Happy Birthday which was so lovely.
The hospice chapel means a lot to me as well. Whilst my mum was sleeping I would often visit it to light a candle for her and just sit there and reflect. Since losing my Mum, the chapel has become a place of comfort to me and somewhere I can go to remember her and to light a candle in her honour, look at her name in the book of condolence and write a butterfly card for the special memorial tree.
My biggest fear had been that my mum would suffer at the very end, but I was with her, holding her hand to the moment she took her last breath, and I know she wasn’t in any pain.
She was only 55 when I lost her. I feel lucky I had my mum for 34 years of my life but I also feel robbed and wonder why life is so cruel. Despite this heartache, I would never have such precious and actually happy memories from what can only be described as the toughest times of our lives, if it wasn’t for the care and compassion of St Catherine’s.
It’s so important to regularly donate, even if you just give the cost of a takeaway each month, because you never know when something like cancer is going to affect you or one of your loved ones, and when you might need the help of this wonderful charity.
- To give a donation from just £5 a month to help St Catherine’s to look after the Big Issues, take care of the Small Details, and make All The Difference to local families like Victoria’s, please click here or call 01772 629171.
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