In December 2022 Alan was referred to Thames Hospice for end-of-life care. Alan's wife Claire and two young daughters Chloe and Ruby continue to receive support from the Hospice. Claire shares their story below.
Alan and I were together for more than 20 years. He was such a good Dad to our daughters Chloe (14) and Ruby (11). He’d take the girls out a lot, playing golf, riding bikes and tennis, and picking them up from school. He was a typical South African, loving a Braai in the garden with the family.
In December 2021, we got the devastating diagnosis that Alan had a brain tumour. He’d been confused and forgetting things. When he forgot how to type and how to shave, it was clear something was very wrong.
After Alan’s diagnosis, his operation to remove the tumour had to be delayed because he had Covid. He had both radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but after two rounds of chemo, they found that the tumour had grown again. His specialist didn’t want to send him for a third. The chemo was making him weaker, he couldn’t walk, they said the chemo would probably put him in hospital and his treatment had to stop.
We desperately needed help. I got in touch with Thames Hospice to see what support they could give us, but Alan wasn’t keen. He’d say, “I don’t need the Hospice. You can look after me”. The brain tumour was making him up and down. One minute he’d be fine, then he’d be snappy, then he’d be nice. It just wasn’t him, but we knew it wasn’t him, it was the tumour.
A lovely nurse from the Hospice at Home Team came to see us to talk about how they could help. His condition was getting worse all the time. After a hospital visit, when he got home it took me an hour to get him back in the house and upstairs, he just didn’t have the strength. It would take everything out of him to get up and go to the bathroom.
The girls were such a big help, making his meals for him and learning to give him his medication. It was such a worry leaving him at home while I had to go to work. Then one day I got a call at work from Chloe to say her Dad was upset and calling for me. When I got home, he just said, “I can’t do this anymore. I need to go to the Hospice”.
The Hospice Team responded immediately and got him a bed the next day. The tumour was affecting his mood so much, I was worried he would change his mind and become angry. So I asked if someone from the Hospice could be with us when the ambulance came to collect him.
A nurse sat with him, she spoke with him and just was gentle with him. They took their time while he drank a coffee and got him ready as if they had all the time in the world. They kept me calm too, without them I would have been on edge and trying to rush.
To my relief, he was happy when he got to the Hospice. We saw a big change in him. He was so much happier; he was cheery. He was chatty, he wasn’t as moody. He said “This is the best hospital I’ve ever been to, it’s so nice here”.
We didn’t like that he wasn’t at home but it was the best for all of us. At home, the brain tumour was making him not who he was. When he went to the Hospice it was such a relief. We knew the Inpatient Services Team were looking after Alan and doing the things I couldn’t do in the end for him.
I’d been caring for Alan at home for seven months, while keeping working and looking after the girls. It had become a real struggle for me and it wasn’t fair on the girls, they did their bit. It had been hard, the medication made him hungry and he wasn’t mobile to do anything for himself. I’d go to sleep and he’d wake me at 3am because he was hungry, then again at 5am. And his mood was so unpredictable. It was hard for all of us caring for Alan. I knew at the Hospice he was safe and being looked after, I could breathe again.
Everyone at the Hospice was so kind; they were always looking after the girls. They’d play games with one of the volunteers and they’d help her on her rounds with the drinks trolley. Alan even enjoyed a Baileys, something he hadn’t done in a long time.
After Alan came to the Hospice it wasn’t long before Chloe’s 13th birthday. She would ask me “Is he going to still be alive for my birthday?”. And I just didn’t know. Alan did hold on, and on Chloe’s birthday the staff at the Hospice all sang Happy Birthday, and took photos. It was good to all be together and I’m so pleased we had that time before Alan died. I don’t think he would have been with us if it wasn’t for the care at the Hospice, I really don’t. He was a fighter, but it was only because of the help he had, and all that medicine he had to help him, that we had that time.
Alan died on 17 December 2022, with the professionals he needed there to make him comfortable. In the days and weeks after, the team at the Hospice were there for me, Chloe and Ruby. They called me to check how I was. The Hospice’s social worker, Sonia,came to see the girls at home in the days after. It didn’t matter that it was seven days before Christmas, in those days and weeks, and in the year since the team at the Hospice has been here for us, whenever we’ve needed them. They’ve helped me and the girls through this.
I’m so relieved that the Hospice could be there for Alan and our family. This Christmas other families like mine will need them. Please donate to this Christmas Care Appeal if you can.
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