Diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer in December 2020 and making gruelling daily trips to hospital to have radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment, whilst living in shocking conditions at a local hostel, Derek couldn’t take anymore, feared for his safety and wanted to end his life.
But, during a hospital visit, he was referred to Thames Hospice and has benefited from receiving symptom control and respite care during his three month stay, whilst the Hospice’s Discharge Team searched for a suitable place for Derek to be rehoused.
Derek, aged 46, was born and raised in South London and is one of four siblings. Following a deeply unhappy and abusive childhood, Derek was taken into care from the age of 13 after his parents divorced and spent his much of his life in and out of children’s homes, living on the streets or relying on the kindness of friends and family to put a temporary roof over his head. His mental and physical wellbeing has suffered from the years of abuse, loneliness, self-neglect and drug overdosing.
Derek said:“I was abused through the children’s home system - in every single one I went to. I was in five different homes all over the UK and then when I came out, every single woman I got with seemed to abuse me as well. I’ve kept myself single for about two years now, because it’s just not worth the hassle. Then I find out on New Year’s Eve that I’ve got cancer, stuck in a hostel surrounded by drugs, violence and gangs.”
He added:“I was having to travel every day by ambulance to hospital on a stretcher because I couldn’t sit up. It just became more and more draining, going back and forth to the hostel and in excruciating agony.
“But then one day a nurse told me about Thames Hospice and I got referred here. I have never been so welcomed and so looked after in my entire life. They are angels here, from the cleaners to the head nurses. You are somebody here, they go out of their way for you; anything you ask for, they do for you. If it wasn’t for this place, I would have probably killed myself. This place has kept me alive.”
At Thames Hospice, we believe everyone has the right to live and die with compassion and dignity. Anyone aged 16 and over facing a life-limiting illness - whether that’s cancer, illnesses resulting from addiction, heart disease or neurological illnesses, including Motor Neurone Disease and Dementia - can be referred to access our care. Our ethos is built on providing holistic, seamless care and people are admitted based on their personal circumstances as much as their immediate medical needs.
During his stay on the Inpatient Unit at the Hospice, Derek also benefitted from counselling to support his mental wellbeing and physiotherapy to help ease pain in his back and hip. The Hospice’s Discharge Team also worked closely with the local authorities to secure a suitable home for Derek.
Derek added:“The Hospice absolutely didn’t want me to go back to the hostel and has done everything in its powers to get me rehoused. They wouldn’t discharge me until I had somewhere safe to go. They have found me a lovely one-bedroom flat with patio doors leading out onto communal gardens in Surrey, not far from my family so I can now get their support. They’ve even sorted a fridge, cooker, washing machine and furniture for the flat. They have stood by me.”
Thames Hospice is dedicated to the complex needs of the diverse catchment area it serves and its vision is, and always will be, quality of life, to the end of life, for everyone.
Derek finished: “I’m excited but sad to leave the Hospice because of all the people I’ve met, but I am so grateful for this place, it’s kept me alive. I am so thankful for everything the Hospice has done. If it wasn’t for you lot, I don’t know where I would be. Everyone here will always have a place in my heart.”
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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.