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Mindy's Story

Following her father and mother’s deaths, less than two years apart, Mindy Cairns says she doesn’t know if she’d have been able to return to work without the bereavement support she received from Thames Hospice.

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

The 54-year-old physiotherapist says the 12-week programme helped her ‘go back to being me’ and that she doesn’t want to think about what would have happened to her teenage daughter, Mariella, if she too hadn’t benefitted from the Hospice’s counselling services.

When the Hospice wrote to Mindy six weeks after her mother died and invited her to contact the Counselling and Bereavement Team, she took them up on the offer sensing that while it wasn’t something that came naturally, she could actually really use the help of a professional.

“I think it would have been really hard for me to have coped without it. I’m not a counselling type of person, but I felt I needed to do something, and I am really glad I did.”

“I met Roma and she was absolutely fantastic. She gave me permission to be sad. That weekly session was a safe space to be sad and also positive. She provided me with strategies to work things through and I’m someone who loves a system or framework.

“I was really hesitant at the final session because this was the place where I could focus my sadness. When I’d started it took about 32 seconds before I would start crying and by the end it was more like 32 minutes, which I think was quite good! Roma just got me.”

Now, Mindy can see that she never really grieved for her father when he died, at home cared for by her mother, in October 2021, a week after his 90th birthday and almost two years after being diagnosed with colon cancer.

Her mother, Doreen, then became her ‘project’, and that role only intensified when Doreen was herself diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.

Both Doreen and her husband Derek received support from Thames Hospice during their final months at home.

“The Hospice at Home Team came whenever we needed them and were always available on the 24/7 telephone advice line – which is such a fantastic resource. They were so lovely and so human,” recalls Mindy.

“Fortunately, Dad was never really in any pain, but the one thing Mum always said was that she didn’t want to be in pain. And, in the last few days of her life when she needed pain relief, we phoned the Hospice and suddenly, like the Tardis, the nurses appeared with a syringe driver at the door in the middle of the night like it was no hassle.”

As a result, Doreen died peacefully in her own home, with Mindy lying beside her.

“It was as good a death as you could ask for, bearing in mind none of us wants to die. But I tell everyone it was a good death.

“I then called the Hospice and the nurses came after an hour. They were so great – quietly efficient and lovely. They treated my mother with such kindness.”

Doreen and Derek had lived incredibly active lives. As well as working full-time as an auxiliary nurse and a self-employed painter and decorator, the couple had shared a love of sports and the outdoors. Mindy’s childhood memories are full of weekends climbing mountains, camping and watching her mum play tennis and father canoe on the Thames at Windsor.

In fact, the plan is that her brother Duncan will take their parents’ ashes with him on a canoeing trip and scatter them there – as that was ‘their happy place’.

With the face-to-face support she has received from Roma and daughter Mariella, who regarded her grandmother as a close friend too, has experienced with Miranda who is one of the Hospice’s Counsellors for young people, Mindy feels like the family is in a good place.

“I only took a day off for compassionate leave when my dad died. Then after my mother’s death, without the counselling I don’t know if I would have gone back to work. My work were very supportive but I’d had eight weeks off and I wanted to go back to being me and I would have struggled without it.

“The same’s true for Mariella. Miranda just got her from the word go. She came to the house and then they met up at her school. She has a ‘box of tricks’ that has made it a really positive experience for Mariella and that is quite something to be able to say for a 15-year-old.”

Mariella adds, “Thames Hospice enabled us to continue as a family until the end.”

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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