Couple smiling on the beach

A Derby couple who celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary this year, have thanked leading adult hospice, Treetops, for the ongoing care and support they’ve received during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Lawrence Dormer, 63, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer during the first national lockdown in April.

Lawrence, a retired motor mechanic and Formula One enthusiast, explained that it was just through sheer luck that his cancer was spotted.

“In April, I had a bad bladder infection. I ended up being referred to hospital and after several investigations, a CT scan and endoscopy, they discovered a shadow on my pancreas. I had major surgery called a Whipple operation at the QMC.”

I have to be very careful as my immune system is zilch

Lawrence’s treatment has not been plain-sailing with a subsequent life-threatening operation delaying his chemotherapy until now.

“I have to be very careful now as my immune system is zilch.

“I retired early eight years ago so I could help to look after our grandchildren and it was wonderful. You used to do more hours at work years ago so you didn’t tend to have the time to look after your own children as much as you’d like to. You’d go to work early and get back late and your children would often be in bed. Looking after our grandchildren gave me a new lease of life.

“But we’ve not been able to see our two daughters and grandchildren except from the pavement. I don’t go into shops or near crowds, and I haven’t got much energy.”

Treetops, based in Risley, provides nursing care and emotional support for adults with life-limiting conditions, those who’ve been bereaved and their families.

Lawrence and his wife Gaynor, 58, started attending the weekly Treetops Wellbeing Café and also took part in a pilot of a new Spring Programme launching in the New Year.

I feel more relaxed, I can think better and have less anxiety

Lawrence explained:

“Treetops have been absolutely superb. You just don’t realise what’s out there. They have really helped with our wellbeing and my anxiety, especially with COVID around. I can get panicky when we’re near lots of people.

“It was wonderful to simply sit in the cafe and have a chin wag. It helps you wind down and it’s a relief and comforting. You can tell the staff anything.

“Afterwards, I feel more relaxed, I can think better and have less anxiety. I just feel happier. It’s like your worries have gone away.

Whatever comes along, I think I’ll get through it and just keep going

“Gaynor has seen a big difference in me too. The basic thing I’ve done since being diagnosed is being positive. That’s the best thing I could tell anyone. Be positive, try not to let things get you down or let things upset you. Whatever comes along, I think I’ll get through it and just keep going and going.

“I’ve seen other people just give up, but I want to be there for our 40th wedding anniversary later this year and see my grandchildren grow up. I want to get down to Cornwall for a holiday and dip my toes in the sea. That’s what keeps me going having a positive state of mind.”

Treetops have been incredibly supportive and shown a kindness which we never expected

Gaynor and Lawrence met when they were both working at British Gas in Derby – it was ‘love at first sight’ says Lawrence. Gaynor explained how they were already familiar with Treetops:

“Ten years ago, my mum got cancer and as a family decided the best way forward was to care for her at home. I have two sisters and a brother and we all slept downstairs but it came to a point when we were all so exhausted.

nurse holding a hand“We’d heard of Treetops but didn’t think we’d ever need to ask for help. We had Hospice at Home nurses sit overnight with mum three or four times so we could then sleep more comfortably and they would look after mum. They were just brilliant.

“Treetops have been incredibly supportive and shown a kindness which we never in a million years expected. It’s been amazing.

“When the main things we’ve been doing are going to hospital, attending appointments, chemotherapy, keeping on top of medications and oodles of tablets, well, it takes you away from all that. It just gives you some relief.

It feels like someone’s putting a blanket around your shoulders

“It feels like someone’s putting a blanket around your shoulders. The café is so relaxing and comforting. I’ve left Lawrence to chat to the staff and had a walk around the grounds which are beautiful. For Lawrence to also safely meet some of the patients face to face made the world of difference. It’s made him realise that he’s not on his own. It’s given him a voice.”

We try to keep upbeat and as positive as possible

This Christmas has been very different for the couple as Gaynor, who works at a school, explains:

“We normally do a lot of hosting on Christmas Day and have a house full of family. Lawrence decorates the house with lights so people can drive by and enjoy them but he’s just not been able to do that. It’s all so different.

“It was just the two of us this year. We’ve watched TV, listened to music and Zoomed!  But we try to keep upbeat and as positive as possible. It’s just one year and we will save our crackers and have a belated Christmas in the summer when it’s safe, which a lot of people will also be doing due to COVID-19.”

Wonderful kindness and support

The couple want to thank Treetops for all their support throughout their challenging year:

“From invaluable Zoom and telephone calls to the kind people delivering goodies and beautiful Christmas treats to our doorstep – we just want to thank as many people as we can, from us both, for the wonderful kindness and support we have received.

“We’d also like to thank our amazing NHS without whom Lawrence wouldn’t be here and our wonderful family, friends and colleagues.”

Treetops is doing all it can to continue to support those in most need. The hospice welcomes donations to their Treetops COVID-19 Appeal to ensure the future of the hospice and its services.