‘’Initially it was whilst working for Morrison’s Supermarket that I started to suffer with backache and a persistent cough. My back pain was so bad on one occasion that, although at the time I was not working in my local Grays branch, I was forced to visit the local hospital Accident & Emergency department for pain relief where tests, including x-rays were carried out. The x-rays showed I had ‘marks’ on my lungs which needed investigating. I was released from Hospital with instructions to visit my GP immediately I got home. That was in April 2012.
My GP referred me to Basildon Hospital where a series of tests, which included CT scan, followed. I was sent home to wait for an appointment for a biopsy –at this stage it never entered my mind that I could have had cancer. Further tests including the biopsy confirmed that I had primary lung cancer with secondary cancer on my liver. Throughout this period of time my mind was working overtime, I had been relatively well all my life and had never undergone medical tests like it. I thought that my bad back could have been age or work related and although having been a smoker all my life I felt numb and shocked when given the test results confirming my cancer diagnosis.
A 3 month period of Chemo Therapy and Radio Therapy followed during which time I was virtually in bed 24/7 as I found the treatment very difficult: I had a terrible, vile, metal taste in my mouth and was completely exhausted. I often thought I couldn’t go on with this but thoughts of my family, especially my daughter and grand-daughter who were looking after me, with support from district nurses gave me strength to go on and fight – so I didn’t give up on the treatment, which was completed in November 2012.
At this point I worked hard to become fit enough to return to work for just 8 hours a week at first. For 3 years I struggled to keep on top of my job – my employers and people I worked with were brilliant supporting me and helping me by adjusting my work patters and responsibilities. They were always looking out for me, but I kept getting infections which kept pulling me back and each time took longer to recover from till eventually in June 2015 I had to give up working altogether.
This was a massive change for me, I have always been ‘a worker’ getting on with life no matter what sort of kept me going – for the first month it felt like I was on holiday but after that I really started to miss work and then started to become angry because I felt that ‘cancer’ had taken my life away from me. The hardest part I found was to accept that I had no control over how my life had changed.
I spent a lot of time watching TV (some days it was all I had strength or motivation to do) and saw a programme about Hospice care – I was very surprised at what I saw and discussed it with my consultant and Macmillan nurse. Following that discussion a nurse from St. Luke’s visited me and we chatted about me visiting and spending time in their Day Hospice. Having lived in Thurrock all my life I had heard about St Luke’s but not in the way it was being explained to me now: So regardless of my personal thoughts about the Hospice I decided to go along and find out what it was all about.
The biggest ‘surprise’ I had initially was the emotional support … I found it so refreshing to be able to speak to people about my illness in an honest, open and a ‘different’ way to the way I spoke to family and friends: When talking to people at the Hospice, be it staff or other Hospice patients, I don’t feel I have to ‘be careful’ about what I say, or explain myself or life choices I have made. I thought I was dealing with my illness but I soon came to realise that emotionally I wasn’t – my illness was making me become very detached from my family who are so supportive and helpful to me and in return I was trying to be very protective of them. This had led to me not talking to them honestly about my illness and because of this we were not as a family all accepting my true situation which sometimes resulted in family tension.
Support I receive from St. Luke’s has made me a stronger person, through counselling and other support I receive I have become stronger and better able to deal with my life. The Hospice has time for me and gives me the opportunity I need for my emotions to ‘unfold’ – they have time to listen to me and all my problems – they don’t make me feel like I am a burden – I feel like I am going to a ‘club’ of some sort when I visit and everyone there is glad to see you. As well as my visits to the Day Hospice I now have the confidence and knowledge that should I ever need help when I am at home I just need to phone St. Luke’s OneResponse or Day Hospice for advice and if necessary their staff will make an extra visit. I am now a much happier person in myself concentrating on what I can do not what I can’t do!
Since being a Hospice patient I am proud to say that I have taken part in 2 ‘Colourthon Walks’ with my friends raising money which in turn supports Hospice Services. I am also organising a ‘Charity Night’ to support St. Luke’s because being a Hospice patient has opened my eyes to what the Hospice does for people and how much their care is needed for people like me.
I can’t do what I used to do but my Illness and having cancer has made me appreciate all the good people who have come into my life since being ill and are part of my life now helping me live as well as I can’’.