With Christmas just weeks away, we’ve launched our new Christmas appeal calling on the local community to give families facing their last Christmas together, the best possible care.
The appeal features Fran, who was being cared for in the community, but very sadly died just before the appeal went to print. Her family have fully supported her story still being shared as they know how passionately Fran felt about St Catherine’s.
Here is Fran’s full story, a lasting legacy of a remarkable woman:
I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2019. Everyone deals with things differently but for me, ever since day one, I have tried to accept it.
My illness is rapidly escalating now, and I don’t know if I’ll make it to Christmas or not, I try to live one day at a time. I know I am dying, but I’m not ready to go yet.
My family is my focus and that is what’s driving me now that I am weaker. I have four granddaughters and three great grandchildren who are all gorgeous. I lost my son and my daughter when they were both in their 40s, but thankfully I have my wonderful grandchildren from them. We are a close family and to them, I’m more than just a Nana.
It was 18 months ago, when I was still undergoing chemotherapy treatment, that my consultant said I should contact St Catherine’s. I was shocked. I thought palliative care would happen when I’ve got just a few weeks left. But St Catherine’s has been amazing – they have helped guide us through the darkest days of my illness.
At first, a nurse from the hospice visited me at home. She wanted to know all about me, my family background, what I needed and what my family needed. From that day on I have felt safe.
I know that any minute of the day I can pick up the phone and dial St Catherine’s number and I will get helped. When a recent viral infection left me struggling to breathe, it was them I called, and they told me what to do. The hospice gives me reassurance and allows me to live my life. In my toughest hours they are there for me.
The hospice has also shed light on things I knew nothing about, like getting a blue badge, and applying for attendance allowance. Without them I wouldn’t have known I was eligible. They sorted it all out. My blue badge was through the door within a week, and I now receive a regular payment to help cover extra expenses.
Now that the cancer is in my liver, St Catherine’s has helped me balance my medication better so that I feel stronger. Their support means I can still do all the things I am desperate to do – like visit Legoland with my great grandson before Christmas. I want to see his little face light up!
St Catherine’s is not for the dying, it’s for the living. It’s to make all your living, while you’re well enough, be better. That is what a hospice is for. St Catherine’s helps my family too. They know I have this support behind me and that I’m safe, which brings them great comfort.
I’m determined to make it to Christmas this year, to be with my family and see my great grandchildren. Children make the world go round.
For me, Christmas is all about family. It’s not about money, presents and materialistic things – it’s about fun, laughter, good food and all being together – 15 adults, five children and seven dogs. It can be hectic!
I want to be here for our Christmas tradition, when my husband Mick and I invite all the children over to decorate our tree. We started doing it over 30 years ago. We turn the lights off, shut the curtains and then have a switching-on ceremony.
The children take it in turns to put the fairy on the top of the tree. Our fairy is looking a bit old now, we’ve had to glue her hair back on, but the children will not let us get a new one!
For Christmas my nephew has invited us all to come and stay. He’s planning curries on Christmas Eve and a traditional turkey on Christmas Day. I hope to be there, sitting in the corner joining in.
My family have told me I WILL see Christmas. We talk openly about me dying. People should talk more about death – it’s a part of life and you can’t hide from it.
In the lead up to Christmas, things would feel so much blacker for me and my family without the hospice. We would be in the dark, fighting our way through my illness alone. St Catherine’s is our light. St Catherine’s will help me when my last days come. If I am going to be more comfortable in the hospice than at home, then that is where I am happy to be.
I’m not worried about me, but I do worry about my family when I am gone – it’s a huge thing for them to cope with. St Catherine’s has already given us lots of information – my family know there is counselling and support for them if they need it. I know there is help for Mick, too. The hospice is not just nursing care – it’s so much more than that.
They have helped me make the most of however long I have left. They shine a light into the darkness and help make my life – because I’m still living – better.
Fran died peacefully at home surrounded by her family. Our sincere thanks go to her family for allowing us to share her powerful story. To make a donation to our Christmas appeal, please click here.