Happy family in group shot on holiday

A Derby woman, whose mother-in-law was cared for by Hospice at Home nurses at the end of her life, is sharing her personal story to help promote our Lottery Super Draw.

Sarah Carrington, 49yrs from Sunnyhill, met husband Glyn in 2013. They married in 2016 in the presence of Glyn’s mum, Steph, and their close family including Sarah’s three grown-up daughters.

Sarah said her mother-in-law was ‘great company’:

Funny, caring, and generous

“Steph was born in Derby and lived in Sunnyhill. She was naturally funny, caring, and generous.  She enjoyed shopping, meeting her sister, gardening, and walking her beloved Border Terrier, Oscar.

“She also read a lot and was especially interested in mediaeval and religious history. This led us to take a large family holiday in Carcasonne, France in June 2018.”

Unfortunately, Steph’s health began to decline during the holiday.

“Steph had been previously diagnosed with COPD, so we assumed her additional breathlessness was partly due to the heat and hills on holiday. With hindsight, we believe this was the start of the effects of a tumour growing.”

She advised Steph to go and make happy memories

After several admissions to hospital with respiratory issues, Steph was finally diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, both inoperable and uncurable.

“In November 2018, the Registrar came to see Steph, Glyn and I on the hospital ward to have ‘the talk’.  She was direct but compassionate. When we asked how long Steph had, I distinctly remember her saying, ‘Weeks to months. I think you should get your affairs in order’. She advised Steph to go and make happy memories.”

It was hard for Steph to fully accept her diagnosis

Steph’s wish was to die in her own home.

“Glyn tried to do his best in caring for his mum at home, alongside me also recovering from major surgery, but there were frequent admissions to hospital.

“It was hard for Steph to fully accept her diagnosis and she would become frightened of the pain she might feel. She would often call 111 or 999 at the slightest hint of becoming out of breath.

“Despite being admitted to hospital, Steph was always equally as anxious to get out.  She was very scared of dying and at night she was terrified of being alone. She wanted Glyn with her 24-7, even though she knew this wasn’t really fair on him. She was also very reluctant to sleep.”

The nurses provided care and comfort overnight when she needed it most

Treetops organised end of life nursing care for Steph through their Hospice at Home service; a ‘welcome sight and massive relief’ to Sarah and Glyn:

“By the time the Treetops nurses came, Glyn had been staying with his mum overnight for several weeks, when she wasn’t in hospital. He was barely getting any sleep.  Knowing that help was coming for those few nights was priceless.

“The nurses offered reassurance and explained to Steph that Glyn needed his rest. The nurses provided care and comfort overnight when she needed it most. They also had the experience to keep her calm.  Steph was even happy to share a cuppa and a chat with them once she accepted the support.

“For us, we knew Steph was in good hands when we couldn’t be there, and they brought much-needed respite for Glyn.  They also provided a listening ear for both of us. They were fully understanding of the situation - the effect on Glyn of trying to care for his mum and the effect on all our relationships. They assured us we were ‘normal’.

“It is extremely tiring, both physically and emotionally, to provide 24hour care for someone who is coming towards the end of their life. It’s so important to acknowledge it is tough and to accept help and support. The service was invaluable.”

Sarah is sharing her story to promote the Treetops Lottery Super Draw campaign which launches this week. The annual Super Draw offers prize money of up to £2,000 and it is hoped it will raise Treetops over £13,000 this year.

Entering the Treetops Lottery Super Draw is an easy way to support the charity

Entering the Treetops Lottery Super Draw is an easy way to support the charity as Lottery manager, Becki Lee-Jones explained:

“We’re very grateful to Sarah and her family for sharing their experience of Treetops and the difference it made to them. We hope that in doing so, people will understand more about the care we provide, as well as how vital it is for us to raise money so we can help more people, like Steph and her family, in the future.

“We have to raise more than £4.3 million to run the hospice every year. We must raise 70% of this ourselves through charitable donations, and fundraising activities including our Lottery.”

Entries to the Treetops Lottery Super Draw are just £1 each. Players must be aged 18 or over.

Since the Treetops Lottery began in 1996, it has raised over £6 million for the hospice. Treetops cares for patients with life-limiting conditions such as cancer, neurological conditions, and chronic heart and lung conditions. The charity also supports families and carers, and all services are provided free of charge.

The hospice has continued to provide its services throughout the pandemic, adapting them to ensure care is still available for vulnerable patients. But the charity faces future loss of income due to the cancellation of significant major fundraising events and their charity shops being temporarily closed once again.