VICKY – Day Hospice Patient
Vicky has Pancreatic Cancer and has been coming to St. Luke’s Day Hospice for 16 months, during which time she has enjoyed taking part in craft work at Diversional Therapy sessions: Vicky is a single mum to daughter Jess who has a rare condition called Toriello Carey Syndrome.
Vicky explains ‘’Since being at the Hospice through their Diversional Therapy programme I have found enjoyment in various craft work – which I find absorbing, rewarding and therapeutic as it concentrates my mind on something other than being ill. My mind is always working on ‘things I can do or would like to do and make’. I had started a knitting project – knitting purple hearts in support of Pancreatic Cancer awareness, but also had in mind to make ‘something’ for Jess.
When chatting in the Day Hospice about things we wanted to do learning to Crochet was put forward as an idea. One of the thoughts I had was to make a blanket for Jess so that she could ‘wrap it around her’ when I had gone and it would seem as though she was receiving a big hug from me.
I was really pleased to be learning how to crochet under the guidance of Hospice volunteer Maureen – but found it very frustrating to begin with. I had never crochet before and initially it took me about three and a half hours to crochet just one square. Maureen was very patient with me but also very firm and insisted that each square was perfect: The blanket I had designed needed 96 squares – with each square taking me 3 and a half hours it seemed an awesome task! However I continued to persevere and before long I was able to crochet a ‘perfect square’ in just half an hour and eventually found crocheting to be more enjoyable than knitting. I find the repetitive process very relaxing, it’s a great stress reliever and wonderful therapy taking my mind off everything else going on in my life – It helps with ‘mindfulness’ and makes me think more about the present, I also get great satisfaction in producing beautiful crafted items I can gift to friends and people I care about.
Each of the 96 squares are different and many have a meaningful family memory – there is a ‘Christmas Square’, and a ‘red white and blue’ one which represents Sunderland FC, our family football team. I involved Jess in the process of making her blanket. Due to the Toriello Carey Syndrome she has learning difficulties and does not always fully understand what is going on. So I am having to find ways of explaining my illness to her and involve her in whatever I can so that she will have good positive memories of our time together. Jess chose some of the themes and colours and I have explained to her that when I am not able to be with her any more she can wrap the blanket around her and think of it as me giving her a big hug. Jess calls me ‘Buttercup’ and has ‘named’ her blanket ‘my Buttercup hug blanket’.
I am so pleased that I have had the opportunity to learn to crochet and make this special blanket for Jess – I am now using my new skills to crochet other items for family and friends.
KIM – Day Hospice Patient
Kim has bowel cancer and has been coming to St. Luke’s Day Hospice since August 2015 – having been referred to the Hospice for Physio Therapy from St. Marks Hospital in London. Kim has 2 children Ava age 5 and Dylan age 9.
Kim explains ‘’Whilst at Day Hospice I was speaking to the Diversional Therapist and mentioned that I would like to take-up knitting – I had bought a ‘knitting kit’ to make 2 monkeys which I intended giving to my brother but found the instructions too complicated for me to follow: Maureen one of the Day Hospice Volunteers took me under her wing and with her guidance and help I was proud that I had managed to finish them and my brother was delighted when I gave them to him on his birthday!
Buoyed by this success I was thinking about taking up another project when I noticed that my daughter, Ava, was playing with her older brother’s ‘baby blanket’ which is a treasured possession as my late mother in law had made it for Dylan when he was born; Sadly my mother in law had passed away before Eva was born so she didn’t have her own ‘special blanket’: This gave me the idea that I could possibly make one for her and the inspiration to learn how to crochet.
Maureen again took me under her wing and guided me through learning how to crochet. As with knitting Maureen was very patient – and within 3 months from my first ‘small crocheted square’ I had made a wonderful blanket which Ava loves. I have incorporated some meaningful family memories which include the flags from her grandparent’s country of origin and also added Ava’s favourite butterflies and flowers. However, I drew the line when Ava requested that she wanted 88 butterflies and 99 flowers on it!
More-over, though creating this blanket has been more than making my daughter happy – it gave me a sense of purpose, and that despite being very ill I can still learn new things and make my life meaningful. During the past 3 months I have not been in the best of health at times being very poorly – I can honestly say that crocheting Ava’s blanket has kept me sane, and absorbed my mind stopping me thinking of how ill I was and worrying about treatment to come: It gave me purpose and I truly believe ‘pulled me through’ what could have been ‘dark days’.
Ava, the same as her brother, now has her own ‘special blanket’ made by ‘mummy’ which can become a family treasure. I am now knitting for other members of my family and teaching Ava too.
CHRIS – Day Hospice Patient
Chris has been using services at St. Luke’s Hospice for 4 years, attending Day Hospice. Chris is married and is the father and stepfather of 4.
‘’I felt scared when I first knew that I had an appointment at St. Luke’s Hospice, the word Hospice, you know that is frightening, especially to know that you have been referred there. The children were asking ‘is it happening now Dad’? I tried to reassure them that I was only coming for a look.
I felt so differently about the Hospice after my visit, everyone was really welcoming, the Nurses, the Doctors, the Volunteers. To be honest it was a relief and for the first time since my diagnosis that I could talk to someone.
I describe the Hospice as a ‘Spiders Web’ to people. The Hospice is a hub with so many areas doing different things. I was able to come and have my blood tests done here so as not to have to go to the Doctors or Hospital. I’ve had physiotherapy, lymphoedema treatment, acupuncture, support from their Hospice at Home service and counselling. To be honest it is all amazing but the counselling has made a huge difference to my life. Being male I tried to keep how I was feeling to myself and it was getting on top of me. Being able to talk to a counsellor here and also to other people going through similar experience has made a tremendous difference not just to me but to my family. We all talk about it now and are much more open.
I now live my life and enjoy life putting the diagnosis to the back of my mind, but it is the support of St. Luke’s Hospice that keeps me positive and coming to the Day Hospice gives me something to look forward to. If I hadn’t come here that first day, I wouldn’t have had the support of the Hospice at Home team when we needed it, physiotherapy to keep me mobile, lymphoedema treatment for my swollen and painful arm or acupuncture to help me sleep.
I would encourage anyone who needs Hospice services to come to St. Luke’s Hospice. Coming here has changed my view of Hospices, it’s not about dying, it’s about living every day and keeping positive. St. Luke’s Hospice has given me back my quality of life and mentally got me through so that I can put it to the back of my mind and carry on. In my family we call it ‘Daddy Day Care’ but it is much more than that.
KEN – Day Hospice Patient
‘’This is my third week here. My perception about the function and duties of a Hospice has been torn to shreds – I thought it was more about the ‘’Grim Reaper’’ than ‘Patient Welfare’ …. I was very wrong! The staff are friendly, always willing to support patients in every way, and the food is extremely good – I have never been on holiday before but if I had I imagine it would be just like this’’.