Bob French talks about the support that he, his wife Jan and their family received from the Rowans Hospice at Home team
In June 2017 Jan, my wonderful wife of 42 years, went for a CT scan because she was experiencing a lot of pain in her hips and back. When the specialist looked at the scan, he noticed nodules on the bones and referred us to the oncology unit. They then took a scan to look for signs of cancer.
The scan didn’t reveal the source of the primary cancer, but clearly showed that the cancer had spread to her bones and liver. We learnt straight away that it wasn’t curable.
Although it was a palliative care situation, our consultant suggested trying chemotherapy, to try to slow down the cancer, giving us more time. But after the second lot of chemotherapy in July 2018, Jan had a bad reaction, so following discussion with the consultant we decided to stop.
From that point onwards we prepared ourselves to spend as much time together with our family to make lasting memories.
It is difficult to remember exactly when we were made aware of the Rowans Hospice at Home team. I think it was through Kate, the Clinical Specialist Nurse based at the Rowans, who was helping us.
She mentioned about the Hospice at Home team before Christmas, but we weren’t ready to think about it. Jan was quite determined to stay at home, so Kate liaised with the Occupational Therapist at the Rowans to provide the equipment we needed.
We received everything from walking frames and a shower stool to a reclining chair and even a proper hospital bed. After Christmas Jan really couldn’t get out much and I was beginning to struggle looking after her at home.
Things gradually started to get really very difficult. Jan could no longer get up the stairs, so slept downstairs in the hospital bed and I had a camp bed next to her, to be there for her all the time.
As you can imagine this was quite exhausting and I think Jan was feeling guilty because she could see how much strain I was under. So then Kate arranged for the Hospice at Home team to visit us.
They came out to see us and took the time to understand our situation and what support we wanted. They immediately offered to start coming in twice a day.
When the Hospice at Home nurses turned up the next day, it was like the cavalry arriving. It was just magical. They helped and supported me, as well as Jan. It was such a huge relief to all of the family.
They gave us peace of mind, especially knowing we could call them any time, day or night. It really helped to enhance the brilliant care we had been receiving from Kate and District Nurses. It also meant that we had help on hand 24/7!
As Jan and I got more used to the team coming, we gratefully accepted their offer of more visits during the day and for someone to stay overnight. As a family we know we couldn’t have kept Jan at home and have carried out her wish without their help.
We knew things were getting really bad because Jan was finding it difficult breathing and no matter how hard they tried they couldn’t get her to lie on one side or the other - she always had to lie on her back. The nurses gently said to us, you are talking about days now.
On the last day the night nurse arrived and helped to settle Jan. She then left the room to speak to our children who were in the next room. I was left with Jan on my own. I held her hand and she passed peacefully away.
When I called them into the room, Jan did one last gasp as they all walked in and one tear rolled down her cheek.
The Hospice at Home team verified her death and performed last offices. It was all so professionally done with care and feeling, understanding and love. Treating Jan with the utmost dignity.
They asked us if we wanted them to call our chosen funeral director and we said yes please. The big thing for all of us was they didn’t rush off, they stayed with us for as long as we needed them.
Hospice at Home called me the next day to check how I was, reminding me that Rowans is here for me and the family and letting me know about bereavement groups at the Living Well Centre and psychological support available.
It is just unbelievable the nursing and emotional support they gave us. They took a lot of the stress out of the situation, as you knew if you called them they would be there. They were just magical.
It is important for us to share our story as a thank you to everyone who has ever done anything to support the Rowans. As a family we all will be eternally grateful to them because the Hospice at Home team enabled us to fulfil Jan’s wish to die at home.
Also don’t be afraid to ask for help, as wonderful help is there if you need it.
The Rowans needs your help to raise the £7.5m needed to renovate the hospice.
Please visit www.silverjubilee.rowanshospice.co.uk today to find out more about the appeal, ways you can support the appeal or to make a donation