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“It’s having that one less thing to worry about”

18 September 2018

For Neville, making memories with his children and grandchildren is what he loves doing most. Whether it’s enjoying a big family BBQ, spending the day at the horse races or watching a musical in London – going out and living life to the full is incredibly important to him.

So when Neville was diagnosed with cancer, he was determined to not let his condition stop him from doing the things he loves. Here, he explains how the support of Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice has given him confidence to keep enjoying his family events by taking away some of the worry that can come with it…

For me, my children and grandchildren are my absolute world. I’m constantly encouraging them to get out there and keep doing the things they love. I always say “if you want something, do it now, as you never know what’s around the corner” – something that my family only know too well.

I lost my wife, Carol, to cancer 15-years-ago. It was the worst time in our lives but Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice was there for us every step of the way. When the doctor at the hospital first suggested the Hospice, we were hesitant but we decided to take a visit to just see what they could do.

I’ll never forget my wife’s first consultation there. The doctor turned to Carol and said “what do you want me to do for you?” and it just threw us. After spending months in-and-out of hospital and going to different appointments, we suddenly realised that no one had ever asked Carol what she wanted. It was such a simple question but it was the key in making a big difference to the quality of her life.

And that’s what I’ll always associate with Birmingham St Mary’s – everything is about you. They never look at you like you’re just a patient or a number; they treat you as a person. And that is so important when you’re going through such a difficult and confusing time. So when I found out a few months ago that I had cancer and that there was nothing more that could be done, I knew I wanted to be cared for by the doctors and nurses at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice.

At the moment, I’m receiving care at home. Lisa – my clinical nurse specialist – visits me every few weeks to see how I’m getting on and to check if there’s anything I need. As soon as I met Lisa, she put me straight at ease and I just instantly trusted her.

The first part of her visit, Lisa will normally ask me how I’m feeling, how my symptoms are, and is there anything that’s concerning me or my family. Because she’s a specialist, she’s incredibly informative and is able to advise me on different medications that might help to manage pain or discomfort. Just the other day, I was telling Lisa how I was struggling to swallow a certain tablet and she told me I could take it in liquid form. It was a really simple solution but without Lisa’s knowledge, I just wouldn’t have even known that that was an option.

And that’s why having Lisa’s care and support has made such a big difference. She helps connects the dots and takes any guesswork out – meaning that I’ve got one less thing to worry about. I can always rely on Lisa to get things sorted, such as speaking to my GP or ordering new medication. I never worry about whether something will or will not get done – with Lisa, I just know that it always will.

Another thing that Lisa really helps with is keeping me up-to-date with any news or progress. It makes me feel more independent and in control, and it’s good that I always know exactly what’s going on.

After we’ve talked about all the medical stuff – or the business as I like to call it – Lisa and I will then chat about anything and everything. We both love musicals, so we normally talk about what shows we’ve seen lately or share recommendations. It’s refreshing to speak to a nurse who has the time to really get to know you. Lisa is always a professional but she’s also just a person who treats me like a person – and you really do need that during times like this. She shows a lot of empathy and genuinely cares about the things that matter most to me.

The best thing that Lisa does is help me focus on living. Family is everything to me and so I want to make sure that we get to spend time together doing fun things. Recently, we’ve been to the horse races in Worcester and enjoyed a big family barbeque, and next week we’re off on a barge to explore the canals. Lisa knows how important these day trips with my loved ones are, and so she does all she can to make sure I can continue to do them. Because Lisa makes sure that I always have enough medication, it just takes that stress away and lets me focus on having a good time with friends and family.

Having a life-limiting illness can be an upsetting and difficult time in your life, but thanks to Lisa’s and Birmingham St Mary’s care, I’m still able to enjoy spending time with my loved ones, having fun and creating memories.

Thank you to Neville and his family for sharing his story. If you would like to find out more about the care and support we can provide in people’s homes, please take a look here.