This week is national Hospice Care Week and this Sunday (14 October) Anne Marie Groves and her son, Jake, will join hundreds of other local people to walk the Sussex Landmarks Hike for St Catherine’s Hospice. Here, Anne Marie explains why she and Jake are taking on the challenge.
“My mother-in-law, Diane, was diagnosed with breast cancer that spread to her stomach and bones. At the same time Martin, her husband and my father-in-law, was diagnosed with advanced throat cancer. It was a horrendous time for our entire family.
At first Diane and Martin were in hospital together but as Diane became less well she was desperate to return home, as it was the place she felt most comfortable. Thanks to St Catherine’s she was able to do just that. During that time St Catherine’s and East Surrey Hospital worked together to help her and Martin spend as much time with each other as possible. They’d been married 50 years so being together was important to them.
When Diane became too ill to stay at home she went to St Catherine’s Hospice. I have four children, Jake, 10, Ellie-May, 8, Harry, 7 and Connor, 4, and I was worried how I’d manage, but the hospice playroom and garden were great as it meant my children were never stuck sitting at their Nanny’s bed. The different spaces gave them somewhere to escape the tears and pain and helped make things feel more like home.
While Diane was at St Catherine’s, hospital doctors from East Surrey brought Martin to visit. We never asked them to but their kindness in doing so was amazing. Visits weren’t easy, as Martin was very ill himself, but they were very precious. Diane and Martin had always loved their garden and seeing the pair of them holding hands in St Catherine’s garden during those visits is something I’ll always treasure. The hospice garden gave us some lovely, family times too. There were even points where, together in the sunshine, we almost forgot where we were and what was happening.
When Diane became very unwell, St Catherine’s worked to get her back home where she passed away surrounded by her family. Shortly after Martin became less well too. He didn’t want to die in hospital so he also returned home. St Catherine’s were a constant support to us all during that time. They helped with equipment and were always on the end of the phone. We never felt stuck or scared because the hospice was there for us 24/7. They were also there to make Martin as comfortable as possible, help his death feel normal for our four children, and to support our family after we lost Diane and Martin only 10 weeks apart.
In particular, Jake has found losing his Nanny and Granddad really hard and it’s made him feel angry. The hospice is helping him though, by giving him counselling and a safe place to talk through his feelings. And he’s already learning how to manage his grief. After his Granddad died, I was so proud of how he supported his own Dad. Jake held him and said, “Your tears are important. You’ve got to let them out.”
I never thought I’d lose two beautiful people so quickly but there are no regrets. Although I didn’t want Diane or Martin to die, their wishes were granted and the care they received was respectful and kind. Their deaths couldn’t have been any better. And that’s really important. As a family we’ll never forget their deaths but the fact that we got things right makes a huge difference to how we feel now.
St Catherine’s has gone above and beyond for our family. Their care allowed Diane and Martin precious time together and to die at home surrounded by their family. That was the thing they both most wanted. It’s something that was only possible with St Catherine’s help and support so knowing that only one in three people locally get this care is shocking. Our family feels honoured that the hospice’s care was available to us twice. And now, we’re determined to make sure that it’s available to more families in the future.
When Jake saw a leaflet about the Sussex Landmarks Hike I explained that the hospice doesn’t always have money to help everyone who is sick. Jake immediately decided we should help raise more money. He said Nanny and Granddad would have loved a long walk in the countryside too. And he’s right – they would have.
I hope the Sussex Landmarks Hike will help Jake find something positive amongst so much pain and heartbreak. We all miss his wonderful Nanny and Granddad but the memories St Catherine’s helped us make are ones we’ll treasure forever.”
To support Jake and Anne Marie in their challenge please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/agroves69
And to sign up to join them on the Sussex Landmarks Hike please click here – Advance registration is £8 for adults and £5 for children. Or £10 on the day for adults and £5 for children (on the day registration is open from 9am.)