“The hospice was always there for support”
When Angela’s husband Pete was diagnosed with lung cancer, St Catherine’s cared for him at home. Here she shares how the hospice helped them.
“Pete was the most placid, kind, caring person you could ever meet
He was so laid back he was horizontal. In the 12 years we were together we never even argued. We met in a pub where Pete was DJing. He’d do absolutely anything for me and he’d give anyone his last penny. That’s the sort of man he was
During the pandemic Pete and I were put on furlough
We were together 24/7 and I’ve got lovely memories of that time together. I got made redundant, but I managed to get another job and to get Pete a job labouring at my workplace too.
It was then I noticed a bit of decline with him.
He kept moaning his knees hurt, so I told him to phone the doctors because Pete was one for never going to the doctors.
I was at home when the doctor rang Pete in early December 2020
I took the phone off him and told the doctor I was quite concerned because Pete had lost his appetite. He was hardly eating; he’d lost weight and he had a cough but not a COVID cough. The doctor sent him for a blood test the following morning. I went to work, and Pete sent me a photo of all the blood tests that they were doing. Me being me I googled them. One or two of them indicated that they were testing for cancer.
It was a Saturday – 19th December when we had another phone call
We were in Sainsburys but the doctor asked us to return home, so we left our shopping and went. The doctor rang us again and said, “we’ve got indications” and I just said outright “it’s cancer isn’t it?”
Thing happened quickly then. At first doctors thought it was pancreatic or bowel cancer, then they thought the cancer was more likely to be in Pete’s chest so did more tests which showed indications of lung cancer.
Before we went back to the hospital Pete and I spoke and spoke and spoke. I asked him “What do you want to do in terms of your illness? Do you want quantity of life? Do you want quality?” He told me quality.
We got Pete’s full diagnosis a month after we first saw the consultant at the hospital
We asked outright if Pete’s cancer was treatable That was when we were told it was stage four terminal. Pete said he didn’t want treatment and that he wanted to be at home. The doctor told me Pete had about six weeks but I didn’t ever tell him the timespan – I thought if I told him that he may have given up
St Catherine’s were on the phone quickly following Pete’s diagnosis
Your welfare lady at the hospice had already activated some benefit forms and helped us get a blue badge for our car. Over time, she also told me about the bereavement support payment I could get when Pete passed on and helped me to forward plan.
Without her I wouldn’t have known about any of the different support that helped make life easier.
Even though Pete was really unwell, we did all we could in the time we had together
We never stopped laughing and joking. I encouraged Pete to get up and do drawings, and we also did a mould of our hands so that I’ve got that to keep.
Pete used to make me take him to Squires Garden Centre for cake too. We also managed to do one of his bucket list items by taking him to hold Birds of Prey at Huxley. He had tears of joy in his eyes all day.
Before Pete was ill, we’d arranged to renew our wedding vows to mark the 12 years that we’d been together. With COVID and Pete’s illness we changed our plans from our spiritualist church to our garden for 30 friends then we realised that would be too much so we scaled it down to a renewal indoors at home, just us, our minister and her husband. It was only afterwards when I looked at the pictures that I realised Peter was wearing his slippers!
During his illness hospice nurses came round to see us
The nurses were always on the end of a phone too and doctors were always available to help if I needed to ask a question about the medication I was giving Pete at home.
If someone couldn’t answer my question they would go away, find out the answer and always call me back. Their support was invaluable.
The team spoke to us about Pete’s wishes too
They explained about his Do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (DNACPR) form as Pete was worried if we ever needed to call an ambulance they would whisk him away to hospital, but the nurses reassured Pete that because he had that form that wouldn’t happen.
We booked and paid for Pete’s funeral together as well
We chatted about songs and Pete wrote out what he wanted, including making everyone wear Tottenham masks! It didn’t go down too well with the Chelsea and Arsenal fans attending the funeral but that’s Pete.
He had quite a sense of humour.
That showed when his final song request was Bernard Cribbins Hole In The Ground too!
It was a Thursday when Pete told me he didn’t feel well
I said “come on then let’s get you into bed” and I knew as soon as I put Pete in bed, he wasn’t getting out again. The hospice started visiting twice a day to help me keep Pete comfy and give him his medication. They were so helpful but never intrusive.
By the Sunday Pete was crying out in pain, so I phoned the hospice to tell them that we didn’t have enough medication, and they worked with a doctor to get a prescription despite it being Sunday.
Later that day hospice nurses came out to change Pete. I was outside having a cigarette when one of the nurses popped her head out of the window and said, “Angela, Pete’s in pain with his neck, do you mind if we cut his top?” The fact they asked my permission meant a lot.
The nurses got Pete comfortable and then called me in – that’s when he passed away. It was as though he was waiting for the team to get him comfortable and changed into clean shorts and a top. It was so quick, but it meant a lot to have Pete at home like he wanted.
It’s seven months since I’ve lost Pete and I’ve been struggling
A lot of people couldn’t understand how Pete and I were so upbeat during his illness but what else could we do? We thought we can’t just sit here and cry, we’ll face this head on. It’s the laughter and joking and our memories that I hold onto.”