"It’s not a one-way ticket"
On the glorious spring afternoon of the Royal Wedding, Gill is relaxing on her bed under a parasol sipping Pimm's in The Hospice garden and chatting with her son. She enjoys having a laugh with the nurses and volunteers at St Helena, and is getting to know everyone quite well having stayed a few times. Gill explains:
Because I have liver cancer I’ve been in six times, by my reckoning, to have my drain. I do try to remember everybody’s name. I should imagine the nurses don’t want to keep being called ‘nurse’, so I call out ‘Gemma, Amy, Emma, Rachael, Sarah!’
The first time I stayed at The Hospice I shuddered because of the name ‘hospice’. But after 15 minutes I relaxed and realised how good, how kind it is. It doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your life; they can treat you and send you out feeling a lot better, so it’s not a one-way ticket.
My other half’s dad died in the late 1980s so that was my first experience of St Helena. His brother was also here in 2007 and a special friend died here in 2016.
My uncle became very poorly about five years ago and he spent stints at The Hospice. He had liver cancer as well and he went through the same experience as me. So I knew my stomach might swell and eventually it did when we were abroad last year. My stomach blew up and my other half was worried and said we should go home. I saw my consultant and he told me that changes everything. He had given me 12 months but now said I had a couple of months to live; that was in December last year.
That was a shock to the system and I thought let’s enjoy Christmas and we won’t mention it to anyone until after Christmas. But then I started to become poorly and tired and slow. And that’s when my stomach started to swell and I was in and out of the hospice having a drain. Obviously it’s quite a shock when you have it the first time but I’m a professional at it now. I was diagnosed in 2004 and I’ve had four lots of chemo and I’ve had my PowerPort for a long time so I’m very knowledgeable. There are several young nurses really keen to learn and fascinated to watch. People don’t progress if you don’t help them learn.
The nurses… where to begin? They are all lovely girls; enthusiastic and they’re funny. There’s some banter and some chat, but if you need to be serious… I’m surprised they all have smiley faces all the time. A couple of times I’ve been in here and someone has passed away. It choked me, so I don’t know what it must do to them. They deal with it in a professional manner, everything is professional. They have their routines, they know what they are doing so I have confidence in them. I’ve got love for them because they are all individuals.
And it’s lovely here. Having that bay window which looks over the garden; I didn’t bother with the telly, I just looked out the window, just stared! In winter time when I was at The Hospice, there was snow on the ground, and now it’s beautiful. They’ve [the volunteers] worked hard on this. They all come out and they’ve got the wheelbarrow and they’re all treading about – it’s fascinating to watch.
I would say to people, don’t be afraid of The Hospice. My friend came in a little while ago and she died, sadly. She was diagnosed last year so she never had the 14 years like I have to get used to it all, and that was so sad to see. I was her bed neighbour for a little while and then I went home.
I wished her to get better but she never did and then when she died I thought, she’s free now. We talked about things because I understood a lot more than other people but it still doesn’t make it easy.
Gill’s son Jack knows his mum is cared for when she stays at The Hospice. He says:
I always say I love it when she is here because it is such a lovely place and they can’t do enough for you here. I know she’s safe and in good hands.
I definitely have the option for support too if I want it. I’m lucky because I have a lot of friends, my girlfriend, my family and mum’s sisterhood. But St Helena does always offer support and someone to talk to and that’s good because other people may not have those resources.
I’ve had a few lunches here; a roast on Sunday which was lovely. My dad looks forward to it every day when he comes up.
He’s got his routine; he has his lunch here and maybe his dinner and he says it’s lovely!
To contact the St Helena Fundraising team, please telephone 01206 931 468 or email firstname.lastname@example.org , Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm.
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SinglePoint is a 24/7 advice and support helpline which helps to coordinate an individual’s care with the hospice. SinglePoint also works alongside other healthcare services such as GPs, Community Nurses or Specialists.
To contact a patient at The Hospice please find the address and telephone number below. Phone calls can be made to patients at any time of the day or week. You can contact Inpatient Services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The Hospice, Myland Hall, Barncroft Close, Highwoods, Colchester, C04 9JU
Telephone: 01206 845 566
You can contact The Hospice in the Home Team Monday to Friday, between 9.00am and 5.00pm on:
Telephone: 01206 845 566
Tendring community team
Telephone: 01255 221 222
You can contact the Joan Tomkins Centre (Colchester) Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm on:
Telephone: 01206 848 163
Fax: 01206 752 245
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Feedback, comments and complaints about St Helena care and support services may be made verbally or in writing to: Director of Care, St Helena, Myland Hall, Barncroft Close, Highwoods, Colchester, CO4 9JU. To speak to a member of our team, call 01206 845 566