Selina and Gary Cowee live each day by their motto
Selina, aged 55, and her husband of 16 years, Gary, live in Sandhurst. They first met 24 years ago when their paths crossed at a job interview and worked together at Heathrow Airport for ten years. Selina said: “In the evenings we would sit at the end of the runway and watch Concorde take off. It was a job we loved.”
After a long career in the airlines industry, Selina took on a rewarding community role for HM Prison Service, before setting up her own commercial cleaning business.
Selina was first diagnosed with cancer in 2007, when a melanoma was discovered in her right arm. She was given the all clear following surgery and follow up treatment, but ten years on began to feel unwell in 2017 with blurred vision and headaches. Selina explained: “I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t speak and I couldn’t read. I used to be a speed reader but I couldn’t do any of that. My symptoms were so severe that I couldn’t work and I had to shut my business down.”
Selina was initially diagnosed with stress and lack of sleep, but her symptoms worsened and she was referred for a scan in September 2017. The couple received the devastating news that Selina had a large tumour on the left hand side of her brain. Selina bravely underwent several radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatments, but in January 2019 the doctors informed the couple that there was nothing more they could do. Selina remarked: “The doctors told me I only had maximum three months, which is a bit of a smack in the face to be honest. But that is what they say, that is not what I say; I am not letting three months get away from me!”.
Selina was first referred to Thames Hospice in February 2019 by her GP and District Nursing Team for pain management and symptom control. She says: “Hospice care to me does not mean end-of-life, I think of it as care and support. I didn’t come in here to die, I knew it was pain control and symptom control. I want to be here. I feel safe.”
Selina was admitted to the Hospice for a second time in May 2019 for further pain management and respite: “I wanted to come back here because I knew the care was going to be impeccable. It was something I wanted to do; I wanted to get myself better so Gary and I can continue to enjoy our time together.
“I love it here. It is impeccably clean. The outside is so relaxing. I love to sit outside in the gardens and listen to the relaxing sounds of the birds. The robins are lovely and so tame; they sit on my wheelchair sometimes. The nursing staff and volunteers are always there for you no matter what.”
Gary agrees: “The care here is perfect; it takes a total weight off my shoulders as I know she is being looked after. When she is in the Hospice, the pressure is off me. It gives me respite too – even though I still come here every day to see my Selina!”
At Thames Hospice we believe that the well-being of families and carers is just as important as our patient care. We offer counselling by trained therapists, alongside complementary therapy such as aromatherapy, reflexology, reiki and massage.
Whilst Selina is cared for on our Inpatient Unit, Gary accesses our services. Gary said:“An hour’s foot massage is just heavenly; I walk out on a cloud afterwards. I have also had a back, neck and head massage and some counselling support too.”
Gary continued: “I will never ever be as emotionally strong as Selina. I’m scared and frightened for the future, but she keeps me going. She is my saviour.”
Selina is strong, single-minded and a fighter. When asked about the future, she said: “I am not scared for the future. I have already written my wishes down and prepared my funeral. Living every day is all you can do.”
Selina and Gary have most definitely ‘got this’ … together.
After sharing their story with us, Selina sadly passed away in August 2019.
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We rely on the generosity of our amazing community, whose support enables us to provide the best possible end-of-life care for local people. It costs £12 million every year to keep our Hospice running - through charitable support we need to raise over 50% of the funds required annually to provide our services free of charge, 365 days a year, to the people who need us most.
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