Ahead of World Cancer Day on February 4, Tom Parham talks about what it’s like to be cared for at the Rowans Hospice.
My cancer journey started in 1995 with my first tumour behind my nose. The treatment was an aggressive course of radio and chemotherapy, which was successful and did remove the tumour.
Due to this experience, I decided to study nursing at Cardiff University. It was during my studies in 2013 that I started to experience pains in my head, which the doctor diagnosed as stress. These pains continued until I collapsed one day at uni.
I was rushed to hospital where subsequent scans showed that I had my second tumour at the base of my skull in my brain. So I started intense radiotherapy treatment followed by chemotherapy.
Again this successfully removed the tumour, which was a huge relief, but left me in quite a poor physical condition. During this period I had returned home as being in student digs was not appropriate and I needed the support of my family to regain my health.
In early 2017 I started to experience a horrible pain in my coccyx which affected how I sat and was excruciating. I attended A&E and they did scans which showed that I had a tumour in my spine. This news felt like a physical blow, my heart sank and I felt very frightened, as this was my third tumour and I knew how tough the treatment was going to be.
This time I had the chemo treatment in tablet form. I did three cycles and each scan showed a reduction in the tumour. But after the fourth cycle the tumour had grown and so the chemo had failed this time. The consultant delivered the news that he felt I only had about 12 months to live. I can only say that was shocking to hear.
My physical and mental condition did take a turn for the worst. I had little to no appetite and was in constant pain.
My district nurse introduced me to the idea of having some respite care at the Rowans Hospice and I was admitted on Friday April 27, 2018.
It was quite late in the evening and pouring with rain. Coming into reception, the nurse quite literally wrapped me in towels to get me dry and it felt like they wrapped their love around me. I knew immediately that I was in the right place for now.
The next morning I saw the consultant and she took her time to find out exactly what and how I was feeling. She created a care plan that would manage my pain and, hopefully, help with some of the other symptoms.
I stayed for 17 days and the sense of these caring arms being wrapped around me was reassuring and settling. I was very aware of the time being given to treat me as a person and look after my whole wellbeing.
Every person who I came into contact with, from the doctors and nurses to the volunteers, were extremely friendly, caring and, actually, loving. They could not do enough for me, and for my mum and family as well.
They put their heart into everything they do, which is so obvious and so supportive when you yourself are in quite a dark and frighten place.
The gardens at the hospice are really wonderful - many days my mum and I could sit outside and enjoy the tranquil feeling they promote. This helped enormously with my stress levels.
The quality of the food they serve at the hospice is excellent and the chef would deliver what I felt I could eat.
With the changes to my medication I have seen a slight improvement with my pain. But with that I am managing to sleep much better, which allows me more energy the next day. Sleep is so important and really helps with your mood.
Today I feel more mobile, my pain is being managed and is more bearable for now. I feel more positive and thankful for the support and love that has been shown to both me and my family, especially my mum, who tells me every day that is it lovely to see her son again.
I have no fear of returning to the Rowans when I need to.
After he wrote this, Tom came back into the Rowans and spent his last days here. He died on July 23, 2018 surrounded by his family.
Please make sure we can continue to give the support to our local community now and in the future. Pledge to do one thing for the Rowans Hospice Silver Jubilee Appeal.