‘I’m not dying, I’m living...’

Dianne Collins (69) who lives in Waterlooville and has a life-limiting heart problem with, left,  heart failure nurse specialist Trish Phillips (52)
Dianne Collins (69) who lives in Waterlooville and has a life-limiting heart problem with, left, heart failure nurse specialist Trish Phillips (52)
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It’s said that two things in life are certain – death and taxes.

Most of us can talk endlessly about the amount we’re taxed, where it goes and what we could be doing with that money.

But very rarely do we give the same amount of attention to talk about our affairs should the inevitable happen – death.

It’s something 69-year-old Dianne Collins, of Mill Road, Waterlooville, was forced to face up to when she was diagnosed with heart failure five years ago.

As part of Dying Matters Week, which ends on Sunday, Dianne is sharing her story.

The mother-of-three, who has seven grandchildren, says: ‘A chest X-ray showed I had a shadow on my heart and after various tests and trips to the hospital, doctors realised there wasn’t much more they could do and I was classed as terminal.

‘I was referred to a heart specialist team and was just consumed by it all and didn’t know what do to.’

But after speaking to the team, Dianne now volunteers for them in the office to do admin work.

She adds: ‘If it wasn’t for the team I would be sitting at home just waiting, they have given me the encouragement to keep going and to get involved.

‘I don’t feel like a person who is dying, I feel like a person who is living.

‘I have taken up painting and I go to crocheting classes too.’

The team put Dianne in contact with hospices so she could plan for the inevitable as well as talk to other people in a similar situation.

‘People don’t understand it until it happens, adds Dianne.

‘They trivialise it when they go “well everyone is going to die”, but the point is they don’t know when it’s going to happen, they haven’t been told, they don’t have a date or time frame.

‘I do, and that forces you to take it seriously.

‘Talking to people who are going through the same process has been really helpful for me.

‘I also have to say my partner Peter Smith has been tremendous.

‘He helps with all the chores and has really been someone to lean on when I’ve needed it.

‘I have talked things over with him and my family many times, so everyone knows what I want when I go.’

The national campaign runs every year and aims to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and encourages people to make plans for the end of their life.

This year the theme is talk, plan, live – encouraging those currently going through end of life care, and those who aren’t to be more open about a process that affects us all.

After talking and planning Dianne, echoing the campaign’s themes, wanted to get out and live the rest of her time to the full.

She adds: ‘I feel so lucky the team have allowed me to come and volunteer.

‘It’s not for very long as I get tired quickly, and it’s only a day or two a week but it’s something I haven’t done before.

‘It’s nice to talk to the girls and do filing and be around people and feel like you’re helping in a small way.

‘It’s made a massive difference to me and my wellbeing.

‘It’s also given me a purpose in life and a different outlook.’

Gina Winter-Bates, who is head of specialist patient pathways at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, which also runs the heart team, explains why it’s so important to talk about dying.

She says: ‘Have you ever discussed whether you would like a big, extravagant funeral or a quite understated affair? What about organ donation?

‘Everyone will die, but we often shy away from talking about the subject and for many people it is still taboo.

‘The aim of the Dying Matters campaign is to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and to make plans for the end of life.

‘In order to support people in this position we need to open discussions about what the person’s wishes, dreams, preferences and aspirations are going forward.

‘We want you to have those early conversations. We know they are hard which is why we can support you, but the earlier you have them the earlier you can begin to enjoy the time you have left.

‘Our staff can help you with getting the information you might need to write your will, or put you in contact with your hospice. And when the time comes we can help you die where you want to, wherever you feel most comfortable.’