Sita’s husband, Calvin was cared for at home by the St Gemma’s community team during his illness.
Sita shares her story:
“Calvin was ill for two and a half years with pleural mesothelioma (asbestos-related lung cancer). He died at home in January this year (2019). Most people think hospice care is delivered in a building but he was never an in-patient at St Gemma’s; the Hospice’s community team supported us at home. They were central in enabling him to retain quality of life through his illness, and to die with dignity in the place where he wanted to be – at home.
“Calvin was very ill for the majority of the time and he suffered a lot of pain following experimental surgery. Dr Jason Ward (St Gemma’s Medical Consultant) was able to manage Calvin’s pain when it went beyond the experience of our GP. Jason and Natalie (our St Gemma’s community nurse) gave us advice and confidence to cope with the various treatments, and they both provided support and comfort to Calvin and me throughout the illness and especially in the final weeks.
“Knowing that Natalie was on the end of the phone was like a lifeline… I don’t know if I could have done it without them”
“Without them and others at St Gemma’s, the journey would have been far harder and more bitter than it was, and Calvin would have suffered much greater pain and loss of dignity. Knowing that Natalie was on the end of the phone was like a lifeline, and there were numerous occasions when she resolved concerns for us (particularly around medications), or sought out information, or just provided vital advice and reassurance to enable us to go on.
“Their support helped me to be able to care for Calvin at home until the end – I don’t know if I could have done it without them, and it was so important to Calvin to be at home. I am eternally grateful to Natalie, Jason and all of the St Gemma’s team.
“Calvin went downhill very quickly in the final few weeks. He didn’t want to know how much time he had left, but I needed to know in order to manage the expectations of family and friends. It was the only secret we ever had from each other. Natalie and Jason both took me aside to talk about what was coming, to prepare me for specific possibilities e.g. dealing with seizures, and to provide comfort and reassurance that I could cope – or that St Gemma’s would be there if I felt that I couldn’t cope at any time.
“I am still grieving and taking each day at a time. And doing whatever I can to support the Hospice. Calvin and I talked about leaving some money to St Gemma’s in his Will. He very much wanted to and I wanted him to. It’s amazing that all of the support, incredible help and care is provided for free. We really wanted to give something back to say thank you, to enable St Gemma’s to continue doing the amazing work that they do and to acknowledge the importance of St Gemma’s in those final years of Calvin’s life.
“Calvin loved the natural world and we spent as much time as we could outdoors throughout the two years of his illness. As he became less mobile, we gathered houseplants and flowers in our room to bring the outside in to him. My Forever Flower is displayed now amongst those plants, as a beautiful reminder of him and of the care and kindness of St Gemma’s Hospice.
“I’ve even joined the St Gemma’s choir, which I love. I sometimes found it difficult to breathe whilst Calvin was ill and after he died. But singing my heart out in an amazing, supportive group has helped me to breathe again.
“Thank you St Gemma’s, I am eternally grateful.”