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Chesca & Donna's Story

Donna and her family were supported by the Hospice for over three years. Donna was receiving care at home by our Response Team before she sadly passed away on our Inpatient Unit in July 2021. Her daughter, Chesca, shares their story with us.

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

My Mum, Donna, was first diagnosed with cancer back in 2017. I was 20 at the time. Mum was such a family person. We were really lucky to have Mum as a ‘stay at home mum’ whilst we were growing up and at school, she was always so keen for us to have friends over and loved to join in with all our gossip. Her favourite thing in life was being a mum and making special memories, she adored Christmas time and would always make so much effort with our traditions; she loved having everyone together.

After our Dad died in 2013 Mum had to go back to work but she still did all she could to keep up with family traditions and me and my siblings were always her top priority. She made life start to feel normal again after Dad’s death.

Then in 2017 mum received her diagnosis, this came as a massive shock to us all as she didn’t seem unwell at all! It was really hard for Mum to accept that she was poorly and she had the mentality that she wasn’t ill; she would go for her chemotherapy once a week and then carry on as normal.

At the beginning she didn’t want contact with a hospice; any mention of it was shut down. She believed a hospice was for dying people and she wasn’t dying. After about a year Mum started to have regular visits with one of Thames Hospice’s community nurses who she built a great relationship with. She would reassure Mum that the symptoms she was feeling were normal and helped her manage them by getting different medications prescribed. This support helped mum carry on as best as she could with her normal life.

Then in December 2019, mum’s condition got much worse, this was awful timing as Mum absolutely loved Christmas and looked forward to it all year. Throughout December she was trying her hardest to carry on with our Christmas traditions. But she was really struggling and as we got closer to Christmas Day she got to a point where she couldn’t really do anything. In this decline in illness we visited A&E quite a few times to try and get help, but we got sent home again and again with no improvement.

After Christmas, I started calling the Hospice Response Team to get help for mum as I knew she didn’t want to go back to hospital. They helped with her medication, trying to keep her nausea at bay so her pain relief had a chance to work. Then they said she needed to come in to the Hospice’s Inpatient Unit. I thought mum would refuse. But she didn’t. She thought she was going to go in and die.

As soon as the doctors at Thames Hospice saw her they knew it had spread to her brain. It was a horrible diagnosis, but I was so grateful now we knew what was making Mum so sick, she could get the treatment she needed. They gave her new medication and got her symptoms under control. The Hospice staff arranged all her hospital visits and surgery, me and my siblings could visit and not have to worry about anything other than spending time with Mum.

After Mum had her tumour removed she came home and was well enough to be able to do more, even though she wasn’t quite back to normal. But we felt like we were on borrowed time. She kept a list of days out she wanted to do. Even going to the garden centre for a cake and a coffee – she appreciated everything and everybody.

Sometimes I could see when mum’s medication was becoming less effective as her condition changed. I’d contact the Hospice Response Team and they could get her a new prescription direct to the pharmacy – I didn’t have to chase to see a GP or anything, this made a huge difference for me as I was working full time so didn’t have much time.

There would be times where Mum’s temperature spiked after chemo and I didn’t know what to do. I’d call the Hospice’s Response Team and they would talk me through it and they’d come and see us if they needed to. Knowing they were there made so much difference; I wasn’t on my own trying to decide what to do next.

The Hospice Response Team’s visits to Mum at home made such a difference to her. She got to know them really well and she could talk to them about things she didn’t feel able to talk to me about. It wasn’t just about the medications – they helped with practical things too. Money became a concern when mum could no longer work. They made sure she had the forms to claim the support we needed to get by. The team also made sure mum had the equipment she needed to stay as independent as possible at home, like frames to help her use the bathroom safely. Keeping her independence was so important to Mum.

Mum stayed on the Hospice's Inpatient Unit in October and November 2020, to manage her pain and symptoms, but with the support of the Hospice team, she was able to be home for what was her final Christmas. Mum really wanted that to be possible – it meant a lot to her and to us.

At the end, Mum was in the Hospice. I stayed the night a few times when Mum was really bad, and I remember the nurse popping in every 15 minutes or so to check on me – she had the whole wing of patients but she treated me like Mum was the only person she was looking after. Mum died in the Hospice in July 2021, by then I really think it was where she wanted to be and the team took such good care of her. It was because of the relationships and trust she had in the Response Team that mum was able to accept help, and she spent her last few weeks in the comfort of the Hospice whilst we received all the support we needed to cope with our loss.

Mum loved Christmas so much, it was such a family time for us all. She would have hated needing to spend it in hospital. If you can, please support Thames Hospice to help patients like my Mum spend Christmas at home with their loved ones, for what could be their last Christmas.

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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.

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

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