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"The emotional support I received has helped me find hope again"

After we cared for his dad, Umar, during his final months of life, Mo Baig turned to Thames Hospice in his time of need, using our bereavement counselling services.

Mo and his parents came to England from Pakistan when he was just a baby, making a new life for themselves in Slough. During the 1970s Mo’s father, Umar, worked in the factories on the Slough Trading Estate to support his growing family. Later on Umar turned his love of driving into a new career in chauffeuring, before eventually retiring to enjoy quality time at home nurturing his hobbies and spending time with his family. Mo said: “Dad was at his happiest when he was immersed in fixing something, taking it apart and putting it back together. His other joy was being around his family and especially his grandchildren.” Mo is one of four children, with a large extended family who all live in the local area.

In 2013, Umar returned from a trip visiting family in Pakistan feeling unwell. Umar developed a persistent cough and began to rapidly lose weight. After a misdiagnosis of asthma and many tests and scans, Umar was referred to the oncology department at King Edward VII Hospital, in Windsor, where he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. After this devastating news in 2014 , Mo made the decision to leave his career of 10 years at BT to spend more time with his dad and pursue his passion for photography. Mo said: “I think it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, if not the best, because I had more quality time with dad in the last 20 months of his life than perhaps I had done in many years before that.

Eventually, after many stays in hospital and unsuccessful treatments, Umar was referred to Thames Hospice by the Community Nursing Team in 2016. Mo said: “We didn’t know what to expect when we brought him to the Hospice. However, I was taken aback by the level of care and just how wonderful everybody was.” He explained how, upon his arrival, his dad was blown away with how different the environment was to his hospital visits: “We got here and I remember he said it was like being in a hotel! He particularly liked the Sanctuary gardens and would often sit outside and enjoy the landscaping and water features. But even better than the surroundings was the way he was treated; the staff were absolutely fantastic.”

After a few weeks at the Hospice, Umar was discharged and cared for by the Thames Hospice Community Team at home together with his family. “It wasn’t just about the level of medical care, personal care, how friendly everybody was or how nice the facilities were. I think his stay at the Hospice helped dad come to terms with everything that was going on. I honestly think that something in him changed; I think they helped him to calmly accept what was about to happen." Umar passed away peacefully at home in October 2016, surrounded by his loved ones.

Almost a year after his beloved dad had passed away, Mo turned to Thames Hospice at a difficult point in his life where he had begun to feel without hope. He explained: “Things had just reached a crunch point and I realised I couldn’t carry on like this. My depression was affecting not just me, but my fiancée Seema, my family and also my work. I needed to do something about it. So last year, in the summer, I decided to access the free counselling services at Thames Hospice for bereaved relatives.”

Mo came to his therapy with Helen, a highly qualified and experienced counsellor, with little knowledge about what counselling was or how it could help him. He said: “Helen was brilliant, I’ve not always been very good at expressing myself, and she found exactly how to help me do that.”

Thames Hospice provides emotional, psychological and spiritual support to both patients and their loved ones. We believe that the well-being of families and carers is just as important as the patient care. We offer individual and group support tailored to suit everyone’s needs, as well as regular events for family and friends to attend in remembrance of their loved ones.

Speaking about his sessions with Helen, Mo said: “I knew I was not in a good place and I had things that I needed to straighten in my head, but I didn’t realise quite how much. Some of it was to do with dad and our relationship over the years, and the guilt I carried around that. Helen’s brilliance lies ultimately in the fact that she helped me to be okay with all of that because I got so much quality time with dad at the end. No one has a perfect life and maybe I was being a bit too harsh on myself.”

After several sessions with Helen, and a healthy lifestyle change, Mo started to turn his life around. He added: “I think there has definitely been a change in me; I’m now going back to the more sociable and confident person I was before. I can honestly say that if I hadn’t taken up the counselling at Thames Hospice, I would probably not be sitting here now having this conversation.” Speaking of his experience of the Hospice, he said: “It’s a rare thing that a place like Thames Hospice can not only provide comfort, rest and a form of relaxation to Dad when he was alive, but to still do that for me more than a year after he passed; I think that speaks volumes about this place.

"The emotional support I received at the Hospice has helped me to find hope again and remember my dad. Support like this can really help emotional healing after the loss of a loved one. If you can support the Hospice by making a donation in memory, I would urge you to do so to support families like mine.”

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