“The team coming in made Yvonne’s day every day”
David’s wife Yvonne was cared for in the comfort of her home by a team of our community nurses. Here David shares how their support made a difference and how he’s been fundraising for our hospice in memory of Yvonne.
“Yvonne was the love of my life
When we were planning our wedding, she wanted to get married on a Saturday, but I said, “hang on, Chelsea are playing Arsenal at home that day, are we going?” We never liked to miss a match, so we got married on the Friday (6 March 1987) and went to the match Saturday. Chelsea won 1—0! Whenever Yvonne came to a Chelsea game with me, we never lost – she was like the team’s lucky charm.
We both enjoyed a drink and I enjoy playing darts, I’ve been part of a darts club for over 20 years.
In fact the same day the doctor told me that Yvonne had pancreatic cancer that had invaded her liver, and there was nothing they could do, I went to play darts. I told some of my old-time mates about Yvonne’s diagnosis while I was there – they were as shocked as I was.
I met Yvonne in early 1984
She was a Geordie and would give a lot of her time to help people. She was a hard worker too.
When I met her, she was working four jobs as a cleaner and doing silver service in hotels to make sure her children always had everything they needed. She was always there for her children, was generous to a fault and would help people as best she could. She wouldn’t take any nonsense from people though.
She looked after me as well. Before Yvonne was ill, I’d had health issues. I’ve been a type one diabetic for 46 years, and I was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) 6 years ago through 51 years of welding. Through everything Yvonne always helped me.
We were married for 32 years, and we had many happy times
We’d go down to Brighton regularly with our son and grandson and we had lots of holidays – including surprise holidays I arranged for our wedding anniversaries and Yvonne’s birthdays. I’d often ring her workplace to let them know that I was organising a surprise trip so Yvonne would need some time off.
In 2018 Yvonne started forgetting the simplest things
I finally got her to the doctors for a memory test by telling her that the appointment was for me. When we were in the waiting room, and they called out her name she gave me a look of daggers.
She’d also been having problems with her stomach and was losing weight but when the doctor examined her, she didn’t flinch. As soon as we got home, she said her stomach was hurting and she needed a hot water bottle.
When I asked why she hadn’t told the doctor that it hurt, her response was “he doesn’t need to know”. That was her attitude.
In June 2019 Yvonne had a fall during the night. I phoned an ambulance, and she was taken to hospital as her blood sugar was high, but her blood pressure was low. I stayed with her at the hospital every day almost all day.
Two days after being admitted it was clear that Yvonne was very unwell
It was a Friday morning when doctors told me Yvonne had pancreatic cancer that had invaded her liver. They said there was nothing they could do. After hearing the news, I had to tell Yvonne’s kids. Giving them that news really tore them apart. At the hospital one of her sons asked the difficult question “how long has she got?” and we were told she had just days to a week.
I went home and just sat thinking – so many things were going through my mind
I wasn’t expecting Yvonne to be very well when I arrived at hospital the next morning but to my surprise she was sat up in bed.
The first thing she said was “where have you been and when are we going home?”
Once Yvonne was back us at home the St Catherine’s team started visiting us
They helped wash and clean Yvonne and at first they visited 3 times a day.
After a while I told them that we only needed them to come in twice, in the morning and in the evening, as I could manage caring for Yvonne during the day. I was always with her and if I needed to pop out shopping to get some food and some latte coffees for her, my brother sat with her. Yvonne loved her coffees and the year before I’d brought her a coffee machine for Christmas.
St Catherine’s visiting her made Yvonne’s day
She loved talking to the girls and the way that they cared for her. While the St Catherine’s team were here, I could sit and relax or have a coffee as well. I used to take a note of what they were doing and try to replicate their care after they’d gone. The St Catherine’s team helped us so much. Once they washed Yvonne’s hair and did her nails and she absolutely loved it.
Towards the end Yvonne was in a lot of pain so she was given morphine to help ease that. Although she was given just days to a week, Yvonne lasted another 37 days before she passed away at home on the 13th July 2019 two weeks before my birthday. It’s still hard to talk about it even now nearly three years later.
After Yvonne died, I went through quite a dark period
I’d go out drinking beer, sometimes quite heavily.
I just wanted to get out and be with people, so I spent a lot of time in a pub or down the local social club but people there were great. Even people I didn’t really know came up and gave their condolences.
After Yvonne passed, I had 9 sessions of bereavement support with the hospice
Initially I didn’t find it very helpful as I didn’t find it easy to speak about Yvonne and our memories together but after 3 sessions it got a bit easier.
I took some photographs of Yvonne to the counsellor and now I carry photos of her with me all the time.
In October 2020 I went on my first holiday alone to Rhodes
I planned to go to Spain as that’s where we’d had our last holiday together but with COVID the holiday was moved.
I enjoyed Rhodes but being by myself I didn’t bother shaving so when I came back my beard and my hair had grown.
My beard was starting to annoy me, so I asked the social club committee if I could have my beard and hair shaved off as part of the club’s New Year’s Eve party
They agreed so I thought I’d raise money for St Catherine’s.
I used a paper form to get sponsorship from different dart teams and raised over £1,000. On the night the shave went off really well and club members made donations into fundraising buckets. In total I raised £1,382.16.
When I started fundraising, I thought I’d be really happy if I could get to £500 but I’m thrilled with my total and very, very happy to be able to help the hospice. For the first couple of months after Yvonne passed, I was still working so I was giving £100 to the hospice every few weeks and I’ve also got two chances in their weekly lottery. It’s important to me I support them.
I haven’t been without a beard for around 41 years so it’s quite a change!
My daughter Vicky, who Yvonne got on really well with, hasn’t seen me clean shaven since she was 10 months old and she cried then, she’s 42 now! She’s told me she doesn’t like me clean shaven and says I need to grow the beard back! Yvonne never saw me clean shaven; she wouldn’t have liked it either, but I know she would have liked and appreciated the idea of me raising money for the hospice. It’s a wonderful way to remember my incredible wife.”