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22nd February 2021

Naomi's miles of hope

Naomi Roberts and her partner of ten years, Georgina Fisher, hoped to celebrate their wedding with family and friends and to take their dream honeymoon relaxing on the beaches of Mexico. 

But the wedding was planned for April 2020 when not only did the Covid-19 pandemic halt proceedings, but Naomi was diagnosed with incurable bowel cancer. We're delighted the couple were married in February 2021. Before she died later that year, Naomi Roberts shared why St Helena Hospice was important to her…

I’ve recently stayed at the Hospice for the second time and they helped me with pain control which was really good. I spent two weeks in there the first time and a week in there the second time. It was a brilliant experience for me being there. And the main thing is they help me to be free of pain. 

They’re supporting me at home at the moment with my nurse Debbie and SinglePoint, and I have counselling with Linda and chaplain Vickie.

Naomi and Georgina on their wedding day

Naomi (left) and Georgina on their wedding day in February.

On 16th February I got married to my partner of 10 years, Georgina Fisher, so she's going to become a Roberts. She's brilliant.

I've never been, but we were going to go to Mexico for our honeymoon. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen now, but before I was diagnosed, that's where we were going to go. We were looking forward to just enjoying their food, the surrounding area, the beaches, the sunshine, the massages. 

We were going to go and just totally relax, so it wasn't really an exploring holiday, it's more of enjoying the weather and the beaches.

We were due to get married in April last year and that was when I was unfortunately just diagnosed with terminal cancer. 

Then covid restrictions kicked in too and all the restrictions had meant that we couldn’t get married at that time. 

So we got married now because of time and we want to make sure that we had the opportunity to do it while I'm feeling well.

Only six people were allowed to be present, so we went from 100 people down to six, but hopefully when Covid is over we can have a big party and celebrate.

It’s still a shock to the system, the diagnosis, to be fair. Because of the lockdown I had to go to the doctors on my own and do all my chemo treatment on my own. And I guess that's scary going into hospital to have this treatment that everybody fears; it is quite a scary treatment and I've had to do all of that on my own. Been hard, but it's made me stronger. It's made me realise that I can actually do a lot more than I thought I could on my own. Definitely, people really learn things about themselves in the worst places; I would say not a great place for me to learn that I can do things on my own, but hey ho I’ve done it.

I've got terminal bowel cancer. It’s spread to my liver and lymph glands, and it had spread to my left lung but with the previous treatment, apparently it had gone from my left lung. Unfortunately, that treatment stopped working so the next scan showed that it spread again, so I'm now receiving a different treatment which I can't tell you what it is, but it's some magical stuff that they're putting inside me which I believe is going to zap it all out again. Hopefully. As far as it can anyway.

I was completely in shock, couldn't take it on for a while. I'd been having private investigations because the waiting list for a colonoscopy was a very long waiting list, so I decided to go private because I was experiencing extreme pain and I just needed to know what it was. When the scan results came back the consultant delivered the news and he said that he was shocked himself at what he found in someone of such a young age, it is very unusual. I was 39, I’ve only just turned 40.

Yeah, I was very shocked and I guess I still am, I still don't know that I've come to terms with it to be honest. That’s kind of where the counselling from St Helena comes in. My counsellor Lynda rings me weekly and has a good old chat with me, she's great. And Vickie the chaplain, oh she's fantastic, she will pray with me, pray over the phone. Both are still in touch with me, which is wonderful. Really good services, very friendly, really in tune with how you might be feeling. Really positive experience. They're all lovely.

I've got my Hospice nurse at home Debbie. She’s lovely! I think she's great. She's the one that really was the driver behind me going into the Hospice. She was the one that really encouraged me and tried to reassure me that it's not, you know, it's not a place that you're going to go into and never come out of. So yes, she's great.

Before, when they said about going into the Hospice I was very reluctant because my thoughts were, I would go in and never come out again. That was my view of the Hospice, that it's basically for people to go to die. And I understand that is part of it, they do have people there who are in their last days and need extra support and care that only the Hospice can provide. I understand that happens there, but also they do so much more than that.

So for me going in there was quite scary. I was absolutely apprehensive about going in but when I was in there, the atmosphere is a very different atmosphere to what you'd expect. The staff are amazing and they are what makes the Hospice what it is. They’re friendly, they are reassuring, they’re busy but that's understandable, and nothing’s too much for them. It’s just a pleasant experience completely different to what I thought I would experience.

As soon as I got in really, I thought they're just really nice and it wasn’t going to be too bad. I had a TV with Netflix on it and I settled in nicely, and I thought brilliant I can watch a load of films and just chill with good food. Their ice cream is amazing! They've got their own ice cream maker and it's fantastic. Never get enough of their ice cream. They did a whole variety of foods from Thai curry to a creamy pork casserole, fish and chips, everything really. Nothing was too much trouble, if I didn't fancy food that was on offer they would try and do something different for me. They were great. They offered me drinks of all sorts if I fancied it. G&T was on offer if you fancied it or a glass of wine. I didn't take up that offer because of just how I was feeling.

Whilst I was in the Hospice, because of Covid there were no visiting hours, it was isolating. To be honest the first time round that I was in there it didn't affect me as much as the second time that I was in there. I’d kind of had enough of the whole Covid thing by then, and I just wanted to be at home because just being in one room for long periods of time is quite lonely at times. But they did everything they could to try and make it easy as possible for you, so that was really appreciated.

What made it different is the people were in tune with how you might be feeling, so they'll go out of their way to spend time to try and reassure you, to sit and have a bit of a laugh with you. I just liked the fact that they liked to have a joke and a laugh, and that it was a less formal environment. It wasn't clinical, it was a nice environment.

They have a fancy bath which I experienced. It’s got music attached to it as well, some classical music in the background and you can relax with the bubbles, so that was nice.

It is very different and that was part of the reason I went in there, so I was actually given the choice of my pain control of going into the Hospice. Because I'd been in there the first time round and I realised the Hospice was OK, straight away I was like, I'll go to the Hospice please.

It was a nice welcome back when I arrived the second time because they remembered me and it seemed with fondness that they had for me, so that was nice as well. The pinkies were very chatty and jokey, they like to have a joke. They are lovely.

Georgina gets a lot of support from nurse Debbie too, actually, but she's also got her own counselling through St Helena and she said it's really positive and I’m pleased she managed to find something that’s useful for her.

Now I’m at home, I use SinglePoint when I need to. They are especially good for the pain control and they've been very good with monitoring my pain whilst in the community and just making sure that I'm OK, really. Absolutely reassured by it. 

Naomi and Georgina
Naomi and Georgina

Photos: Georgina (left) and Naomi in the Yorkshire Dales with their dog Ronnie. The photos were taken in between Naomi's stays at The Hospice and during her treatment, yet she was able to walk 4-6 miles a day.

This story may not be published elsewhere without express permission from St Helena Hospice.


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