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Nicki's story

Former dog walker Nicki Smith says she dreads to think what state she’d be in, if she hadn’t been able to access a range of services at Thames Hospice since her husband’s death, her own terminal diagnosis and her father’s recent cancer surgery – all within the last two and half years.

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

Emboldened by the support she has received from Thames Hospice, Nicki, 50, is now busy ticking things off her bucket list and doing her best to enjoy life with her beloved pug, Yoda.

“I dread to think what things would have looked like if I hadn’t accessed the Hospice,” says Nicki. “I don’t know where else I could have let off my fears, anger and frustrations or whatever emotion it was.

“This place is beyond phenomenal. It is supportive, but it’s really good fun at the same time and it’s the one place that we can all moan and share our fears because everyone in that room gets it.”

Nicki says the first member of staff she met at the Hospice made a positive impression on her and she hasn’t looked back since.

“The first thing she said was ‘I’ve got a computer, I’m not going to look at it because I just want to talk to you and I want to concentrate on what you’re saying, I’m not going to type anything up’. I thought, how amazing is that? Because it is distracting, isn’t it? I just thought, what an opening line.”

This was after Nicki’s husband, Carl, died very suddenly in October 2021, just after they’d returned from a holiday in Dorset. The couple had been together for 25 years after meeting on the bus home from school.

Then, the following year, Nicki was diagnosed with bowel cancer which doctors later discovered had also spread to her liver and right lung.

Now, Nicki looks forward to her visits to Thames Hospice every Thursday to access the charity’s Outpatients Services in the Paul Bevan Wellbeing Centre. She benefits from regular physiotherapy and complementary therapies, and says she appreciates the physical, mental and social benefits.

“I have been for physiotherapy and used the walking machine to regain some strength. Reiki or Reflexology - I don’t care, I can take it all! I think it’s amazing. I love it.”

While Nicki is close to her family who live in Kent and has a good local support network of friends in and around Burnham, she says it’s hard to talk to them about how she really feels.

“There are so many things that you might want to say to other people that aren’t ill, so you don’t say it coz they don’t get it, but at the Hospice everyone does, and it doesn’t really matter if you’re crying your eyes out or you’re about to throw up, we all know what that’s like.”

Nicki is realistic about her terminal diagnosis but is also determined to make the most of the next few months.

“I’m trying to treat it as a guide rather than a strict timeline. I’ve just booked to go to Lapland to see the Northern Lights at the end of February because I do feel that I’m running out of time. At the minute, I do feel quite able, and I don’t know, in six or seven months’ time, I’m going to be in a lot more pain and stuff. So, it’s kind of forcing me to do things that I’ve thought about and not carried through.”

She and Yoda will also be taking a caravan in Norfolk for a few nights in April.

Asked if she could sum up what she thinks of Thames Hospice in a few words, Nicki said: “I just love it. It’s my safe place. It’s understanding, it’s friendly, it’s fun, it’s supportive, and they just can’t do enough.”

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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