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“We struggled to find anything that related to Simon’s illness; that’s when we decided to write something ourselves.”

Anita recently started coming to St Catherine’s Hospice to receive Lymphoedema treatment at our clinic. Here, she talks about her journey with cancer, and how she’s trying to help other families through writing her own books:

“My husband, Simon, has End Stage Renal Failure, and many everyday activities, such as lifting the kids up for a cuddle, are impossible for him now. When Simon was first told he had reached End Stage, we searched for books that would help us explain to our young children that Daddy was poorly.

We struggled to find anything that related to Simon’s illness; that’s when we decided to write something ourselves. Lucy and Jack are fictional characters that we have created, based on our own son and daughter, whose Daddy has renal failure. These books have helped us explain to our children what their own Daddy is going through, and how they can help him manage certain symptoms.

Unfortunately, just before Christmas in 2016, I was diagnosed with aggressive Grade 3 Breast Cancer.

It was a real shock to us all. I was operated on in the summer of 2017, but the cancer spread to my lymph nodes. That’s when I was referred to St Catherine’s Hospice.

I’ve been coming to the St Catherine’s Lymphoedema clinic since October 2017; and I have to admit, when I was first referred here, I was scared. When the hospital told me I was to visit St Catherine’s for treatment, I couldn’t understand it. I wasn’t at the end of my life, so why was I being referred to a hospice?

Initially I found it very difficult to come; a friend of ours had passed away at St Catherine’s a few years ago, so coming back here just brought those memories back. I completely associated the hospice with death. Mentally, it was hard to get my head around the fact that I was coming to a hospice, despite not needing palliative care.

I’m pleased that my preconceptions of St Catherine’s Hospice were wrong.

I was nervous before my first appointment, but Louise from the Lymphoedema team is so lovely. My second appointment wasn’t as hard, and I can see now how the hospice can help me despite not being at the end of my life.

Following my diagnosis, we decided to start writing another book for our series called ‘B is for Breast Cancer’. We hope that this will help our children get their heads around Mummy’s illness, much like the other books did for their father’s; what’s more, we hope these books will offer some reassurance and guidance for other parents going through a similar situation to me and Simon. All we want to do is help others, and the fact that I am able to take something positive out of my horrible diagnosis gives me so much joy.

When it comes to talking to your children about illness and death, it’s so important to be honest with them.

Many people don’t talk about these subjects as they’re trying to protect their little ones, but so long as you’re using age appropriate language and simple terms to help them understand, it really makes the family feel much closer together. Children aren’t daft: they know when something is wrong with Mummy or Daddy, or if they’re stressed. Being honest with my son and daughter has been a huge relief to me.”

To find out more about Anita and Simon’s books, visit their Facebook page.

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