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David and Esther’s story

Newly-weds enjoy short breaks and day trips, concerts, restaurants, theatre trips, afternoon teas and life at home, thanks to ‘amazing’ care and support from Thames Hospice.

Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

Ever since David Axtell’s terminal diagnosis, life for him and his wife of three months, Esther, has been a rollercoaster; one they say they’ve been able to ride thanks to the practical, emotional and clinical support they’ve received from Thames Hospice. The Hospice is helping them to overcome and adapt to each stage of their cancer journey.

Between them, the couple have benefitted from the services of the Hospice’s skilled Occupational Therapists, the Counselling Team and weekly visits to the Hospice’s Outpatient Services, so much so that they’ve had the confidence to fill their lives with new experiences.

Esther, 50, says: “We know that David’s terminally ill, but we’ve got the Hospice with us every step of the way.  And it’s very reassuring that we know that while David has deteriorated, at every point of that deterioration, the Hospice has been there for us and has enabled David to continue to live at home.

“Because of the Hospice, I think, we’re still able to go out and have adventures.”

Maintaining that sense of independence has been fundamental for David, 60, even though the spread of his cancer to multiple bones throughout his body has severely limited his mobility and causes him serious pain. It’s only with the extensive and ongoing support of the Occupational Therapists, and the Nursing Team at the Hospice who make sure that David’s pain is under control as well as his medication regularly reviewed, that this has been possible.

David has been provided with a number of aids, including a chair to lift him into the bath, grab rails, a rise and recline armchair, a table on wheels, a special mattress topper to support his spine, as well as a perching stool to help make everything accessible in the kitchen. David has been provided with everything he needs to continue to live as independently as home for as long as possible.

At least as important as the practical assistance they’ve received, has been the way in which it’s been provided, they both agree.

“It’s not just the equipment, it’s the people that do it. They are very person-centered at the Hospice and they take the time to get to know patients as individuals.” says Esther. “I think this place is very inclusive, you know. You come in, you see people of different abilities, David is autistic for example. When you come in here, you see people of different abilities, from different walks of life, and everyone is treated the same, with the same care.

“As soon as you come in, right from the reception, everyone knows your name and it’s quite unique. In the cafe, they say good morning – it’s everybody. There is a culture here of making people feel welcome and safe and cared for.” 

Esther knows what caring for people really means as she works as a geriatric mental health nurse in Reading.

She and David met through mutual friends at Slough Baptist Church 15 years ago but only became romantically involved much more recently, after she was the friend he chose to take with him for the appointment with the oncologist when they told him about his diagnosis – advanced stage four metastatic prostate cancer – which was terminal and couldn’t be cured.

So, I was the one that literally held David, and I said, ‘I’m here with you, every step of the way, and I will walk when you can’t walk’, meaning emotionally,”  Esther recalls.

“From that day forward, we did so much together, and I started to realise, actually, I’m feeling just a bit different than friendship now. We then realised we didn’t want to waste any more time.”

They’ve barely squandered a moment. Having got engaged in June last year they were married in their church in November and spent their honeymoon in the Lake District.

David’s enjoyed his first pop concert – 80s band, Duran Duran - and they’ve been to several West End shows and days out, on short breaks and out for numerous special meals and afternoon teas.

“People think when they come to a hospice that you come out in a box another day,” says Esther. “But it’s not like that at all. It’s very much about helping us celebrate our lives to continue our lives at home for as long as we can.”

David’s never too busy though to miss his weekly visits to the Hospice where he enjoys the activities and the camaraderie.

“I enjoy the social aspect and the arts and crafts and joining in the games as well. I just love the ambience because the staff are so friendly, and so approachable and I’m getting to know the other fellow patients, as well.”

David gives everything he makes in the craft classes to Esther who adds them to her ‘box of treasures’.

Esther, who says she’s been feeling a little depressed recently, has also benefitted from some of the emotional support on offer at Thames Hospice.

“The counselling is amazing.  And I like the flexibility as well. I should have finished my counselling sessions, but because David deteriorated, they’ve offered me some more.”

Having known people who’d been cared for and supported by Thames Hospice, meant David and Esther had no fears when he was referred here. In fact, quite the opposite.

“I think, when I first came here, I compared this place to a resort,” David remembers. “Simply because the sun was shining, we were by the lake. We were eating a delicious meal from the cafe, as well. I felt it straight away, it has that kind of ambience.

“I’m so impressed with the care and the atmosphere. The atmosphere is relaxed, happy and very professional at the same time and you get on really well with the staff.”

Combining a long-time dream with a desire to give something back, David recently dressed as a pantomime dame to collect money for Thames Hospice at the Christmas production of Cinderella by the Argosy Players at the Winston Churchill Hall. David has been a member of the Argosy Players for 35 years and they nominated his for a lifetime achievement award from Hillingdon Arts, which was presented to him by the Mayor in August 2023.

Make a difference

Our services are free of charge to all those in our community who need vital hospice care but this is only made possible through the charitable support and generosity of our amazing community. We need to raise £38,363 each day to fund our services 365 days a year to the people who need us most.

We’ve never needed you, our wonderful supporters, more than we need you today. Please donate what you can to help keep hospice care available for those in desperate need.

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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