Couple sitting close together smiling at the camera in a restaurant setting

Sarah Joyce shares her personal experiences of how our Hospice at Home nurses helped to care for her mother-in-law.

"In October 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, we received the news that every family dreads. My wonderful mother-in-law, Wendy, was diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s curable they said.

Wendy bravely battled through it

With that always in mind, the following months were traumatic but bearable,  as we had hope. Wendy bravely underwent a mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy.

It was a long, painful road but Wendy bravely battled through it. My husband Stefan and I couldn’t even be there for her due to the various restrictions in place at the time. It’s fair to say that it now makes us very angry that not everyone followed the rules in the same way! Wendy never complained, she quite simply just got on with it as there was light at the end of the tunnel. That was super human strength and resilience right there.

Our world was shattered

In November 2021, we received the news that every family battling cancer longs for; the one year all clear. We were elated! The pain and trauma had all been worth it.

Sadly this was extremely short lived. Wendy had been experiencing pain in her back and was referred to physio as it was thought it was being caused by arthritis. After eventually being scanned in December 2021, our world was shattered when they diagnosed secondary cancer on Wendy’s spine and other areas. This time they said not curable but treatable.

After a few months of attempting to control the growth and spread of the cancer, we were told that it was having no effect. There was nothing more they could do.

End-of-life care

In May 2022, the oncologist gave us the prognosis of no more than 6 to 12 months. In a strange way, we were all relieved that we would hopefully be able to enjoy a good few months of making precious memories.

Sadly, Wendy’s health rapidly declined soon afterwards. On the 15th June, whilst in the hospital, they informed us that the care Wendy was receiving was now end-of-life care.

We managed to get Wendy home on the 16th June. 

I can honestly say that we wouldn’t have got through the next few days without the invaluable care and support that Treetops provided us with; both caring for Wendy and supporting us as a family.

As things had moved so fast, we weren’t able to access carers for the first couple of days. Wendy’s medication unfortunately wasn’t managing her pain properly.

Hospice at Home care and support

We’d only been referred to Treetops a few hours before our first call to them. Over the course of the next few nights, we frequently used their Roaming Nurse Service, which meant we had quick and easy access to a registered nurse overnight.

They made it so easy for us. They were usually there within the hour to give Wendy the top-up of pain relief that she so desperately needed. I daren’t even imagine how long this would have taken if we’d had to go through the lengthy NHS 111 service every time.

Our Treetops nurse took the time to listen to us and reassured us that we were doing great for Wendy. She made us feel comfortable to call at any time without delay; if you have any concerns at all, she said, call us and we’ll make the assessment.

It was such a relief to hear. In that situation, you almost put pressure on yourself to become a medical professional and know exactly what your loved one needs and when they need it. The Treetops nurse lifted that pressure from us, which I will always be grateful for.

They were there for us

After two nights, we were able to have a Treetops Hospice Health Care Assistant stay overnight. I can’t begin to describe the difference this made to us.

We had two different nurses over three nights. Both put us at ease instantly, making us feel able to get some much-needed rest whilst Wendy’s care was in their capable hands. They were also there for us; supporting us, preparing us for what to expect.

Family standing in garden, son, daughter in law, mum and dad

In the care of the Treetops Hospice at Home team and with Stefan by her side, Wendy passed away peacefully.

This was at the time that the nurse was due to leave at the end of her overnight stay. However, she didn’t leave us. She stayed a few more hours and continued to support us, making all the phone calls on our behalf to save us the heartache of doing it ourselves.

We will never forget the care and compassion of the whole Treetops team we were fortunate to have around us during our darkest times. They are all truly amazing people and we will be eternally grateful for everything they did for us.

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