In January 2022, Sheila passed away after receiving support from the Hospice in her last few months of life. Sheila’s daughter Caitlin bravely shares their family’s story.
The last few months
“In the last four months of my mum’s life, she suffered debilitating symptoms and side effects of a brain tumour, two years after her first diagnosis with stage 3 non-small cell lung cancer.
When you receive a terminal diagnosis and are in need of palliative care there are many things, both practical and emotional, that soon become necessary to be put in place. For my mum this included specialist medical equipment, a DNR/statement of intent and plans for any future care needs.
The urgency with which these decisions had to be made was sudden and unexpected when my mum’s health deteriorated rapidly. She was unable to walk, communicate effectively and at times she struggled to understand more complex matters. It was at this point the hospice stepped in to offer the help and support we never thought we would need. They talked us through the practical matters and were empathetic to the emotional impact for both my mum and the family.”
“For me personally when we first found out about my mum’s prognosis the practical side of things took over. I pushed on with communicating with the district nurses, GP and Wigan & Leigh Hospice to make sure everything was in place in terms of palliative care and support. The emotional impact however came in overwhelming waves. Questions ran through my mind like –
- How much longer will my mum be able to talk to us?
- What will her last moments be like?
- What do we do when she passes away?
The magnitude of what was to come at times became unbearable, but the Hospice were there to reassure us these questions were normal and to give advice and comfort of what to expect.
After discussions with the team my mum made the choice, being the stubborn and head strong woman she was, to receive care from the Hospice in Your Home team rather than staying at their inpatient unit. She also chose not to have other carers, so instead my dad, sister and I took on that role. The team from the hospice and specifically my mum’s Hospice Nurse Specialist, Lisa, respected her choices and ensured she had everything she needed.
My mum began experiencing seizures in the last two months of her life, as a side effect of the brain tumour. In the last weeks we would take it in turns in shifts to sit with her, sleeping and eating at separate times to ensure someone was always with her.
Once again, the Hospice stepped in to help. They arranged night sits with experienced staff to sit with my mum whilst we took time to catch up on sleep and take a break from being in a constant state of alert. We were able to trust that my mum had someone with her to keep her safe and settled. They knew to wake us if there was an emergency or to contact the district nurses for any medical needs.”
“There were so many more things the hospice helped with or offered us in terms of support. The Hospice building is beautiful and offers people a place of tranquillity and peace when their life is in the midst of crisis.
Without Wigan & Leigh Hospice, what was a dark and difficult time for my family would have seemed even more overwhelming.”
Caitlin has since completed the 2023 Manchester Half Marathon in memory of Sheila and raised vital money for Wigan & Leigh Hospice.
This story was published January 2024.