“It’s the love and affection above anything else that makes Thames Hospice so special.”
“We were a match made in heaven!”, reminisces Graham of the love and devotion he and his late wife, Jenny, had for each other. The couple first met in 1968 at an Amateur Dramatic Society in Acton, London and found that their careers were both in the aviation industry, and just two years later they were married. In 1985 Graham and Jenny moved to Bracknell, where they settled down to family life with their daughter, Sarah.
In 2009, the couple received devastating news. Jenny, aged just 62, was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer and immediately started a course of chemotherapy. It was during the second course of treatment that Jenny developed an aggressive reaction affecting her immune system. As Jenny’s condition deteriorated, the couple were referred to Thames Hospice by their Macmillan nursing team.
Graham said: “When the word hospice was first mentioned I was guilty of the total misapprehension of what a hospice is. I thought it was some dark, foreboding place that really was not a good place to be – but how wrong I was proved to be.
“I clearly remember my initial reaction when we first saw one of the inpatient rooms at Thames Hospice. I said to one of the nurses ‘is this really available for Jenny?’, and she said ‘oh yes!’. It was just amazing!”
A few days after Jenny was admitted to the Hospice, Graham and Sarah were able to stay overnight. Graham explained: “They said ‘we are here for you as well as Jenny’. That is just a measure of the love and care that is the grounding stone of the Hospice. It’s the love and affection above anything else. The professional care is top of the list, but it’s that love and affection, and the way they make everyone feel relaxed in the environment.
“It is not just the care for the patient; it is the family too.”
A short while after Jenny lost her battle with cancer, Graham was offered emotional support at Thames Hospice. Graham attended ‘Stepping Stones’, a bereavement support group run by the Hospice, as well as weekly one-to-one counselling sessions with a member of the Patient and Family Support Team.
Graham added: “Every Friday I came for an hour to just talk. It was just amazing.”
“I got to a stage where I thought this is my life now, and this is how it is going to be from now on. I wanted to do something to make all that love and affection that my family and I had received available to others. That is when the word volunteering was mentioned.”
Graham became a volunteer driver at Thames Hospice over six years ago, picking up patients from their own homes to attend the Day Therapy Unit and Complementary Therapy appointments at the Hospice.
He says: “I absolutely love volunteering. Both parts of the role are very dear to my heart, but to pick someone up to bring them for complementary therapy – that is quality of life. It’s bringing a little bit of enlightenment into their life and that is what is so important when people are facing a terminal illness.
“To me it’s about making the experiences that I had through my wife available to other people. That is so important.”
Thames Hospice has an army of more than 600 dedicated volunteers who are involved in a variety of roles that support the work of the Hospice. Graham explains: “One of the unexpected surprises of volunteering was the amount of volunteers you meet who you share a common interest and goal with. Our little band of volunteer drivers are a bit like ships that pass in the night, but over the six years I have made some friends for life.”
We have volunteering opportunities available in the Hospice, our shops and out in our community. Graham’s message to anyone considering volunteering is: “Don’t even think about it, just pick up that phone, go online, and apply. There are so many opportunities.”
To find out more about volunteering for Thames Hospice and apply please click here, or call us on 01753 842121.