Patients, family and supporters share their experiences of our care and their support
24 October 2017
say don’t go on and on, my life was pretty ordinary but Debra wasn’t just
ordinary, she was truly remarkable, a much loved and admired young lady. A very
special caring daughter. Our Rock.
just 54 when she died following a short battle with acute lymphoblastic
leukaemia. A type of leukaemia which is more frequently seen in under 18’s and
very rarely in those in their fifties. Debra died at the same age as her dad Gerald;
Gerald had bladder cancer for which he also received the care of the Arthur
Rank Hospice back in 1996 at their original site on Mill Road. It was like
reliving it all again.
been feeling out of sorts for a while, she had less appetite, she’d lost weight
and it was decided that blood tests were needed. On the 23rd December 2015, I
received a call from Debra asking me if I could meet her and her partner Steve
outside ward C10 and E10 at the Addenbrooke’s hospital, these two wards were to
become Debra’s second home. We owe our everlasting thanks to the wonderful
staff who gave Debra such special care.
just typical that Debra would be diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia.
her life as she had encountered the loss of her dad, her brother Tony from
heart disease (at just 45) and now sadly she faced the greatness challenge of
all, a fight against this very aggressive form of leukaemia. At the age of 52
and as a mother of two, Clare and Glenn (both now in their late twenties) with her
partner Steve and her immediate family around her, her 19-month journey
commenced which she immediately faced head-on with such courage.
hospital suggested immediate treatment, she underwent an intense five-week chemotherapy
programme and a cocktail of various drugs in attempts to overcome this rare
condition. The hospital remained positive and said that successful treatment,
could see Debra return to work in a year, but we also knew that if the
treatment and drugs did not work, this disease would indeed be fatal.
loved her work at Wolfson Court, belonging to Girton College, as a dining hall
supervisor she sometimes supervised weddings and special dinners for many
people. On evening shifts she would serve Steve, who also worked as night
security at Wolfson Court, his dinner too.
advised a stem transplant may be needed at some point in her care and earlier
than expected in June 2016, it was decided it was now time. Sadly Debra
encountered many side effects as a result from skin conditions to the norovirus
and sepsis. It was an awful time, she lost weight and couldn’t eat. Drugs
continued to be administered and at their peak. Debra was taking as many as 45 tablets
in one day plus a selection of infusions, but she always put up with it. Bad
luck ensued as she also broke her right hip in August 2016 resulting in major
surgery. She was so brave and after a slow and painful recuperation she
returned home to the lovely house that she and Steve had created only a few
several years Debra had been looking forward to being a nanny so when Glenn and
his partner Rosie announced Debra’s first grandson was due in November 2016 she
was overjoyed. Due to her illness she was unable to bond with Baby Harry as she
so desperately wanted to. She was able to hold him on occasions for a short
time and although she put on a brave face we could tell she was heartbroken.
But we have photos’ which is a blessing. In the intervening months Debra spent more
time in hospital than at home and then in January 2017 she broke her left hip,
which resulted in major surgery again and painful recuperation was much slowly
this time as Debra by now was much frailer and her body wasting away. Debra and
I were really close and we thought alike, we could talk about everything.
2017, Debra returned for a spell in hospital and I asked the doctor, unbeknown
to Debra at this time, the most difficult question of all ‘Is Debra dying?’
They didn’t give a definite answer but I knew.
conversations were initiated by Debra about withdrawing treatment; this was a
massive decision which involved all of the family. Debra decided to trial a new
drug which was about to become available, this would be the final drug which
could be offered to Debra. Whilst waiting it was suggested that Debra be moved
to Arthur Rank Hospice. She was becoming anxious and it seemed sensible to have
a break from the ward. We were told the drug could be administered there and as
Gerald had been cared for by Arthur Rank Hospice, I thought this was a good
idea. Debra didn’t want to go, but I reassured her having visited earlier to
see Tony’s clock taking pride of place in the Bistro, that it was beautiful
there. Debra was admitted on the 12th May and we awaited the arrival
of the drug. When the drug arrived sadly it did not work.
next few weeks, I visited every morning and Steve, Glenn, Clare and her sister
Tracey along with other family members and many friends formed a rota, organised
by Debra of course, her supervisory skills in evidence, so typically, Debra. It
was lovely all being together at the hospice. There were no visiting times, so
we could come and go and Debra would always encourage us to stay. I often had
to remind her she needed to rest for her next visitors but she never wanted us
make our way around the gardens, which were so well maintained, and had changed
from green to now display so much colour. Two hospice garden volunteers, Graham
and Michael, who were known to Debra having previously worked at Girton College
would pop in on a Thursday to visit whilst they enjoyed their break. Debra
always enjoyed seeing them and all of her visitors. The nurses were absolutely
wonderful. Everyone had time for you. Doctors would spend any amount of time
talking about the things we needed to know but also the things that we wanted
to know. It was different there to being in hospital.
It was the
16th June, when I knew that I was beginning to lose Debra. Debra
could barely walk and the trips around the gardens of the hospice to our usual
tea spot became less frequent. For the first time since being a child, she
asked me to feed her ice cream. We saw each other’s tears and hugged and
talked. She was so frail, but her mind was alert. That talk I will cherish
forever. She said she was ready to go. She said “Them two better look after me
Mum”, meaning her dad and her brother.
would try to remain cheerful for us, as we did for her, but there weren’t many
laughs during those continuing months, however the last couple of weeks of
Debra’s life she was sedated and when she awoke she would say such funny things
because of it, we all laughed together and Debra, bless her, would wonder what
was so funny. Clare and Glenn would record them on their phones and can now
replay those times, poignant but comforting for them. Thank you Debra for those
lots of friends during the ten weeks which Debra spent at the hospice, staff,
patients and their relatives hold a special place in my memory. It was early
Saturday morning, about 8am, on the 22nd July, when I received a
call asking the family and I to make our way to the hospice. We stayed with
Debra until the following day when she passed away at ten past ten on the
morning of Sunday 23rd July. Debra’s passing was just how Gerald’s
had been 21 years earlier. For Tracey and I history once again repeated itself,
even ironically in the same month too! But Debra was now at peace and yes, I
hope so very much that her dad and brother are looking after her as she had
was so important that the family were there. Debra was a one-off, she was loved
by many so very much and we miss her terribly. My darling, precious Debra.
pleased that she had the privilege of being cared for at the Arthur Rank
Hospice for those ten weeks. Although decades apart, the care both Gerald and
Debra received was excellent, that was never in doubt, the staff are wonderful
and it is all about the care and the empathy. They remain so professional but
you know that they want to cry with you (and I know they did). Most importantly they cared for Debra but they
actually cared for all of us.
wrote letters (leaving them in my care) to me, Steve, Clare, Glenn and Tracey
to be opened after she passed away. This again would be so typical of Debra.
She even planned some of her funeral. The letter I received was beautiful and
she urged me to get on with my life and although I just wanted to hibernate,
she would have had none of it. I am now getting back into my shifts at the ARHC
shop in Great Shelford as a volunteer and I have also returned to my Monday indoor
bowls club and my Thursday evening carpet bowls club. I know that she sits on
my shoulder each day and says ‘Well done mum’. Thank you Debra, I am so proud
you were my beautiful daughter, my pride and joy, and in her words “Hey you out
there, I’m only ever a whisper away”
Jennifer kindly shared her story in support of Light up a Life, to find out more about click HERE
"They basically just looked after her minute by minute for those final two nights. It was incredible. [...] It was very much as if we were being cared for as a couple.” Michael Barnes' wife Svitlana received care from our Hospice at Home team in February 2019. ... click for more
“Having special time together with Sam in those last few weeks as a wife, but also as a Mum - and for him being able to be a Dad – was really important. Hospice at Home allowed us to be family together, the four of us, at the end.” Xanthe’s husband Sam received care from our Hospice at Home team in 2018. ... click for more
Angela McGrath, Mum of Daniel shares her story and inspiration for walking to Liverpool in memory of her son ... click for more
“I felt like somebody who belonged there and was part of the family”. Kirsty Bradbrook tells us about her husband Mike’s care at Arthur Rank Hospice at the start of 2017... click for more
Jennifer Cater shares her story of the loss of her beautiful daughter Debra Jane Hodgson... click for more
We had the pleasure of chatting to Claire, who has taken part in Bridge the Gap walk since its first year in 2001 as part of the well known group, the ‘Sunflower Girls’.... click for more
Sally shares her touching and powerful story of her family and their relationship with the Hospice... click for more
I will never forget the moment that my husband Hugh broke the news that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. The thoughts and emotions that explode in those few seconds are indescribable. The enormity of the implications, the effect ... click for more
Brenda & Stuart Evans reflect on Bridge the Gap
A couple who have ‘Bridged the Gap’ for many years.... click for more
Brenda & Stuart Evans reflect on Bridge the Gap
Kevin very kindly met with Donna Talbot in August this year and shared his touching story of the loss of Mary, his wife.... click for more
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