When Sally Brunton’s community clinical nurse specialist (CNS) suggested she may benefit from relaxing Reiki sessions with our complementary therapists, Sally went along so it would give her husband Andy some respite.
Sally had been diagnosed with breast cancer and brain tumours. As a mum with a three year old son, regular counselling sessions too became important to her so she could continue family life.
Sally explained: “When I was diagnosed, I thought the worst straight away. I was a terrible mess. I had counselling and that’s when I started picking up.”
Day Therapies sessions gave her another outlet for her frustration, and there she created a memory box of letters and keepsakes. She said: “It helped me face things I didn’t want to. No one wants to create a box of memories for their child, but I’m doing it for Charlie. That way I can take care of him all throughout his life, even if I’m not here.
“Going to the group made me feel safe and gave me a window of opportunity to not be scared and just get on and do things like writing letters.”
Just after Christmas 2016, Sally was admitted to The Hospice and died in January 2017, age 42.
Now age seven, Charlie is supported by Stars, our grief programme for young families.
Andy explained: “Charlie goes off to work creatively with the other children, and the parents sit together and we talk openly about everything; our feelings, what we’ve gone through. It’s so nice to sit and listen to other people who have gone through all that too, suffered the way you’ve suffered. And you can just talk openly. No one’s questioning you or judging you. I really benefit from it.
“There are never any sad memories of The Hospice for Charlie; always happy memories. He would love playing in the garden in the little playhouse or collecting pinecones and conkers.
"He was never scared about going; his face just lit up, he was excited. He’d spend a few minutes with his mum then he’d go straight off to play with the toys or watch a DVD.”
Sally stayed at The Hospice for respite on a few occasions where Charlie would visit and Sue Leavett, assistant social worker, would spend time with him talking about his mum. When Charlie started school, Sue regularly visited him there and at home, and would recommend story books exploring emotions for the family to read together. Now, to Charlie’s delight, they see each other every month at Starbursts.
This continued support is the reason Andy and his daughter, Sophie-Leigh, and friends, did a fundraising skydive this year.
Then in August, Sophie trekked up Mount Kenya, which included a moment at the summit to watch the sun rise and think about Sally.
Sophie said: “When Sally was at home it was hard, especially through the bad stages. Charlie was three or four during the bad times, so Dad was up and down the stairs quite a lot having a growing child and Sally needing his full attention as well. So to actually have someone there to help them and hold their hands through something they didn’t think they’d ever have to deal or cope with, was so important.”
Andy agreed: “The help is forever ongoing and always helpful. It’s still helpful now without a doubt. I’ll take any help I can from St Helena Hospice; it’s always good and always the right sort of help. If I was ever to ask for something, it would be there.”
Sophie, Charlie and Andy with Dermot O'Leary, St Helena Hospice patron
This story may not be published elsewhere without express permission from St Helena Hospice.
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