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Moments shared

Patients, family and supporters share their experiences of our care and their support


David Barker

16 February 2015

Donna Talbot, the charity’s fundraising and marketing manager was delighted to have the opportunity to spend the afternoon with David and his two dogs George and Maggie at their home in Barrington, Cambridge. Jenny was 64 when she passed away in April 2014. David and George are pictured in the accompanying photo. Here is David’s story:

‘Jenny and I had been married for 44 years and we have two sons, Stuart – who has two boys and a girl with his wife and Richard who has one daughter with his wife.’ David said ‘Jenny knew something was wrong last year. She didn’t initially tell me but she confided in her very close friend Polly. She had begun to feel uncomfortable with indigestion so she went to see her local GP in Harston, Dr Richards. The GP initially investigated possible dietary issues and a couple of scans later in November of last year, Jenny’s Consultant, Mr Woodward delivered the dreadful news that she had pancreatic cancer.’

‘Jenny agreed to take part in a trial in December, we knew it wouldn’t be likely to help Jenny but we hoped it may help someone else. She felt absolutely rotten and the days at the hospital were lengthy. We just wanted her to have a few quality months with her family so in December we decided the trial was becoming too much and we wanted to make the most of the time we had left together.’

Kate Slaven from the Specialist Palliative Care Team at the Arthur Rank Hospice was the first person to visit David and Jenny in their home. Kate spent time with Jenny explaining the illness, how it may develop, what was to be expected and that although Jenny didn’t need the support to start with; Kate explained she was at the end of the phone if she needed any advice or questions answered on anything at all. Jenny later took her up on this offer and David said ‘The response they had was brilliant. Jenny and I even visited the hospice as part of the discussions about her care programme and she accepted it well. She spoke with two ladies receiving care and she decided if she had to go somewhere and couldn’t remain at home, she was comfortable with going to hospice.’

In the last week of Jenny’s life, a Hospice At Home Nurse arrived at their house and stayed between 10pm and 7am. David and Jenny’s sons were so impressed with the level of support. It became more and more obvious the family benefited from the support as Jenny was finding her mobility becoming more difficult and had sadly had a fall. David continued ‘We were worried we would hurt Jenny or cause her pain when moving her so the extra care was greatly appreciated. The staff offered good advice and reassurance to me and the family. Jenny and my family had support for six nights that week which meant I could support Jenny’s wish not to go into hospital in her last few days.’

‘The Hospice at Home staff were so knowledgeable, it was comforting knowing they were able to help. It was important to talk about what was happening and the family and I were fortunate to have the nurses here. ‘

‘Jenny planned a lovely Mothering Sunday by involving all the family as well as her good friend who had come to visit from France. She wanted a beef pudding and helped Stuart’s wife, Katie to prepare it ready for her special day.Even though she was very weak at this point, she still supervised me and her friend to ensure Mothering Sunday was everything she wanted it to be.’

‘When the day came, we borrowed a wheelchair so it was easier for Jenny to get around the garden to enjoy watching the grandchildren on the trampoline. Our sons planted a black bamboo – something Jenny had always wanted. It was a wonderful day.’

‘That evening Jenny found it very difficult to get up the stairs. On Monday she stayed upstairs and the next few days were very difficult for her. In the early hours of Thursday morning on 3rd April 2014, Jenny passed away at home surrounded by her family. Looking back, Jenny hadn’t felt ill at all at the beginning. It seems strange to think just in late August 2013, she had been at a wedding and looked so well which made it all the harder to believe she had the early stages of cancer. It was not until the latter months and particularly during her last month, Jenny’s appearance started to change.’

David continued ‘If Jenny was angry about her diagnosis, she didn’t ever show it. Looking back, there was no way of really seeing that she was so unwell; there were no real symptoms to speak of initially, no loss of appetite – they just stumbled across the diagnosis by accident really. We tried to keep as active as possible for as long as we could but once it had spread to Jenny’s liver she became very tired. She would take to her chair in the sitting room and I would ask ‘Whatever are you watching?’ and she would reply ‘My programme.’ It was as though it was her own time and the programmes were a comfort zone she could enter.’

‘Jenny adored her grandchildren and she made sure she put a brave face and saved her energy for them all. They loved her to bits too. Before she became too ill, she spent two hours wrapping presents for them so they could have them ahead of Mothering Sunday. She also bought and prepared Easter Eggs for them! She was a great planner!’

‘Jenny’s funeral was very humbling. Everyone wore bright colours as Jenny did not want anyone to be miserable. David delivered a eulogy that he had started to write the previous November, which was a touching recollection of their life together and David was sure to abide by Jenny’s wishes, ’I want my funeral to be happy and for people to remember me but not to be miserable.’

‘I know I still have the support of the staff at the hospice and my local GP has been fantastic. I am grateful to having my family around and Jenny and I have great friends here too. It’s never easy, it will never be the same but it will take time to learn to live with the loss of Jenny.’




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