If you learned that you had less than 6 months to live, what would you do?
After learning that her relapsed breast cancer was incurable, 54-year-old Ipswich Town FC fan Terri, wanted to use her last moments to tick some items off her bucket list.
Terri was supported during her last moments by St Helena Hospice. Before she died, Terri, a paediatric nurse herself, praised the care of St Helena Hospice during her stay and the support the team gave her to achieve some of her wishes.
They allowed her to make the most of every precious moment. Helping her tick off some key items on her bucket list, whilst sharing the experiences with her loved ones and making memories.
“Oh it's amazing at the Hospice. It's the fact that when you come in, you're welcomed and you’re just treated with compassion and care, and it’s everything about it really.
“This is total care. Total care. If I was doing this job or somebody I knew was doing this job, I'd be proud because I think that they do an amazing job. It's with compassion, it's just definite care. You don't have to ask for anything really, they’re always one step ahead.”
Terri was not surprised when she found out that her breast cancer had returned. Taking it in her stride and deciding to make the most of the time she had left.
“It wasn’t a surprise at all. I took my last dose of chemotherapy tablets on 1st December and then I went on holiday. I knew on holiday that something wasn't right, I'd guessed then. Everything was just getting more of a struggle. When I got back, I had my sign off oncology appointment and said look, I don't feel well, I think something is wrong. So, they did a scan, and I knew then straight away that it was relapse, and I knew what that meant; I knew that wasn't going to be curable.
“I had two hospital admissions and after the second, I came to the Hospice.”
Terri had already started ticking items off her bucket list before arriving at St Helena Hospice.
“The bucket list was already underway after the scan showed a relapse, but I'd already had an idea in my head of bits and pieces I wanted to do. I'd already got my will sorted out because I was always convinced that it was going to come back. I'd already planned my funeral; it's going to be a complete shocker! I'm going completely off piste, it's going to be completely radical, that's the plan.
“I've got quite a dark sense of humour, so I don't mind talking about the fact that I'm dying and what the funeral is going to be like and all those sorts of things. It doesn't bother me because I know it's inevitable and it's just how long I can carry on really; as long as possible.”
Rather than fearing her death, she felt privileged to know that it would happen soon. Radiating positivity by knowing she would have the time to plan what will happen and to do some of the things she had always wanted to.
“There’s no point in being frightened. I’ve got a privileged position in that I know I'm going to die, and I know it's not going to be months and months of time, it's going to be more like weeks to very few months. I've at least had the opportunity to do the things that I want to do and how many people can say that? To plan what's going to happen, how it's going to happen, when it's going to happen-ish. I don't sit and think about it. I don't have sleepless nights because of it. It is what it is.
“I hope people don't feel that death is a thing to fear. I think it's a thing to cherish, to think that at least I can do things I want to do and say things I want to do, and I think it brings families and friends together. There are people I've not seen for a long time that have got in touch that actually I didn't realise felt what they did for me.”
Terri’s care was exceptional. The staff were always there, ensuring every moment was cherished. Having a huge impact on her final days.
“Niamh, the Hospice matron, has really embraced the bucket list and she says that's what she likes to do for people. That's somebody who deserves more accolades. I don't think people realise there are people like her around, and what a difference that makes.”
Terri died at St Helena Hospice in June. Her funeral was planned in secret before her death. She viewed this as an opportunity for her loved ones to celebrate her life, rather than mourn her loss.
One of Terri’s wishes for her funeral was to have people wearing a football shirt or scarf to celebrate her love of Ipswich Town Football Club. She was even escorted by a tractor.
To make people laugh, she included the popular children’s song Baby Shark. Making this day one of joy and happiness, rather than sadness.
One of the items on her list, Terri sadly did not get to see herself. In honour of her memory, The Red Arrows took a special in memory flypast over the Hospice. As the Red Arrows flew over, they let out a white smoke trail for Terri and everyone watching from the Hospice garden. A moment of joy and splendour for those who bore witness. Something she would have been delighted to know has been ticked off.
You don’t know the impact of a hospice, until someone you love needs them.
They provide tailored individualised care that treats everyone as a person, not just an NHS number. But hospices are facing an unprecedented threat to the care they provide to those most in need. With Hospice UK declaring that 96% of their member hospices will be reporting a combined deficit of £186,000,000 by the end of next year, it is a very challenging time.
Without the generosity of the local community, they simply won’t be able to continue to provide the exceptional end of life care they do.
You can help by playing Your Hospice Lottery for only £1 per week. It may not seem like much, but when combine with others in the local community, it makes a world of difference.