Bob French talks about the support his wife Jan, himself and their family received from the Rowans Hospice at Home team.
In June 2017 Jan, my wonderful wife of 42 years, went in for a CT scan because she was experiencing a lot of pain in her hips and back. When the Specialist looked at the CT scan he noticed nodules on the bones and referred us to the Oncology unit. They then took a scan to look for signs of cancer.
The scan didn’t reveal the source of the primary cancer but clearly showed that the cancer had spread to her bones and liver. We learnt straight away that it wasn’t curable.
Although it was a palliative care situation, our Consultant suggested trying chemotherapy, to try and slow down the cancer, giving us more time. But after the second lot of chemotherapy in July 2018, Jan had a bad reaction, so following discussion with the consultant we decided to stop. From that point onwards we prepared ourselves to spend as much time together with our family to make lasting memories.
It is difficult to remember exactly when we were made aware of Rowans Hospice at Home team. I think it was through Kate, the Clinical Nurse Specialist based at the Rowans, who was helping us. She mentioned about the Hospice at Home team before Christmas but we weren’t ready to think about it.
Jan was quite determined to stay at home, so Kate liaised with the Occupational Therapist at the Rowans to provide the equipment we needed to help Jan stay at home. We received everything from walking frames, a shower stool to a reclining chair and even a proper hospital bed.
After Christmas Jan really couldn’t get out much and I was beginning to struggle looking after her at home. Things gradually started to get really very difficult. Jan could no longer get up the stairs, so slept downstairs in the hospital bed and I had a camp bed next to her, to be there for her all the time.
As you can imagine this was quite exhausting and Jan was feeling guilty, I think because she could see how much strain I was under. So then Kate arranged for the Hospice at Home team to visit us. The Hospice at Home Team came out to see us, they took the time to understand our situation and what support we wanted. They immediately offered to start coming in twice a day.
When the Hospice at Home nurses turned up the next day, it was like the cavalry arriving. It was just magical. They helped and supported me, as well as Jan. It was such a huge relief to all of family. They gave us peace of mind, especially knowing we could call them any time, day or night. It really helped to enhance the brilliant care we had been receiving from Kate and District Nurses. It also meant that we had help on hand 24/7!
“It is just unbelievable the support they gave us. They took a lot of the stress out of the situation, as you knew if you called them they would be there. They were just magical.”
As Jan and I got more used to the team coming we gratefully accepted their offer of more visits during the day and for someone to stay overnight. As a family we know we couldn’t have kept Jan at home and have carried out her wish without their help.
We knew things were getting really bad because Jan was finding it difficult breathing and no matter how hard they tried they couldn’t get her to lay one side or the other, she always had to lay on her back. The nurses gently said to us, you are talking about days now.
On the last day the night nurse arrived and helped to settle Jan. She then left the room to speak to our children who were in the next room. I was left with Jan on my own. I held her hand and she passed peacefully away.
When I called them into the room, Jan did one last gasp as they all walked in and one tear rolled down her cheek.
The Hospice at Home team verified her death and performed last offices. It was all so professionally done with care and feeling, understanding and love. Treating Jan with the utmost dignity.
They asked us, if we wanted them to call our chosen Funeral Director and we said yes please. The big thing for all of us was they didn’t rush off, they stayed with us for as long as we needed them. Hospice at Home called me the next day to check how I was, reminding me that Rowans is here for me and the family. Letting me know about bereavement groups at the Living Well Centre and psychological support available.
It is just unbelievable the nursing and emotional support they gave us. They took a lot of the stress out of the situation, as you knew if you called them they would be there. They were just magical.
It is important for us to share our story as a thank you to everyone who has ever done anything to support Rowans. As a family we all will be eternally grateful to them because the Hospice at Home team enabled us to fulfil Jan’s wish to die at home. Also don’t be afraid to ask for help, as wonderful help is there if you need it.
Please help us to support more people like Bob and Jan in the future by donating or pledging to do one thing for the Silver Jubilee Appeal. Thank you.