Hospice patient arranges dog for husband when she is gone

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Man and lady in formal clothes and man holding dog.

When Mike and Michelle Purse saw Lead On, Arthur Rank Hospice Charity’s dog walking challenge, being advertised they knew this would be perfect for their Dad, Roger and his dog, Vesper.

Vesper the Beagle and her owner Roger Purse will be walking 90km over the month of September to raise funds and awareness for the Charity in loving memory of Judy Purse, Roger’s late wife and Michelle and Mike’s Mum.

Michelle explained the reasons for signing up:

“My Mum received a devastating diagnosis of incurable kidney cancer in October 2020. She then spent 18 months enduring every possible treatment to spend as much time with us as possible. She spent many weeks in and out of Addenbrookes hospital, often isolated and without visitors due to the pandemic. It was a very difficult and traumatic time for us all.

When ultimately treatment was no longer an option, Mum was moved to the Arthur Rank Hospice in Shelford Bottom. It was the place she knew she wanted to go to and said as much on the day of her diagnosis.

Mum spent a month in the wonderful care of the staff at Arthur Rank Hospice and me, Dad and my brother, Mike spent every moment by her side – taking it in turns to stay each night. 

The care she received – we received – was an enormous comfort to us all. Dignity is not something easy to maintain with a terminal illness, but somehow mum was able to keep hers, which mattered so much. Her hospice room was a little sanctuary where she was finally able to see her friends and family. We made the room as personal as possible; it was literally our home for four weeks. For a little while we almost thought we could all stay there forever, but in the end reality bites.

It’s hard to describe the weight that is taken off your shoulders when you hand over the care of someone you love to the team at Arthur Rank Hospice Charity. We were able to be a family, not carers, in the last weeks of Mum’s life. As hard as that time was for us all, I cannot imagine how we would have coped without them. This is a gift we hope others can experience too.”

Before she died, Judy had continued her selfless and caring attitude whilst in the Inpatient Unit and made preparations for Rodger to not be alone. She told her children, Michelle and Mike that their Dad would need a dog to get him off the sofa when she was no longer around.

Brown and white Beagle dog looking at the camera

Michelle added:

“Mum saw photos and videos of Vesper before she died, and gave her the seal of approval, so we proceeded with the adoption process. I was able to let her know that Dad was approved to adopt Vesper a few days before she died. It was important to us all that she knew that. 

Vesper arrived a few days after Mum’s funeral. We didn’t exactly plan it that way but I’m sure glad that’s how she wanted it to work out. She’s been an absolute godsend, not just for Dad but for me and Mike too. We know that, as long as dad has Vesper, then he’ll take care of himself – he’s never been so active! She’s the best gift Mum could have left us.”

Michelle concluded:

“Dad and Vesper are inseparable. She gives him purpose – a reason to get up, get out and keeping living. I think he is her purpose too.”

Sarah Clayton, Community Fundraiser commented:

“We thank Michelle, Mike and Roger for sharing their story. We are glad to here that Vesper is proving to be a benefit both mentally and physically for the family.

Lead On is a brand new challenge for 2023 for Arthur Rank Hospice Charity and we are thrilled to see the momentum of support it has already received.”

You can keep up to date with Vesper and Roger’s journey on their Enthuse page

Have you been inspired you to support people in Cambridgeshire living with an advanced serious illness or other life-limiting condition and would like to take part in Lead On for the Charity? Sign up here: www.arhc.org.uk/leadon or email Sarah or Vic at cf@arhc.org.uk or call 01223 675888 for more information.