“I love quiz night here, we play ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’ and I’ve won several millions!"


Sally has always lived in York and from a young age knew that she had Huntingdon’s disease.

“I had one elder brother who died from Huntingdon’s when I was young. My father and grandfather both had the disease. As the condition is hereditary, I knew the chances were fairly high that I could also have the condition.”

After school Sally went on to study Bio Medical Science at Sheffield University, and went on to gain a PHD in Neurology. Recalling her university days, Sally said: “I knew I was at very high risk of getting the condition so I wanted to find out as much as I could.”

Canine comforts

Sally went on to work as a research assistant until the late 90s when she could no longer work due to her health. She managed to live independently until 2012, however as her condition progressed she required greater support and was assigned to Sue Ryder Holme Hall. Social services felt she unable able to take her beloved dog, Cassie, along with her and started discussions on separating them.

“I have always had dogs and I have had Cassie for nine years, she’s more than just a dog to me, she’s my best friend. When I heard that they were going to take my dog away that was the worst day of my life. I was completely devastated. The thought of any kind of future without Cassie really upset me.”

Sue Ryder Holme Hall soon stepped in and made sure the two weren’t going to be separated.

“I was happy that I wouldn’t be parted from Cassie. She really understands what I am saying and is a great company as I don’t have any family who visit.”

Cassie also helps Sally: “Due to my condition I am prone to falling over. Cassie rescues me as she barks to alert staff that I need assistance, which can be a life saver.”

When they both arrived at Holme Hall Sally felt upset that she had to leave living on her own but Cassie settled in straight away.

“The staff here were great! At first I was unsettled but they soon moved loads of personal things into my room so it soon felt like home. It is the little things that make a big difference, like having my own furniture, TV and books.”

Living life to the full

Sally and her companion Cassie are enjoying life at Holme Hall.

“I love playing catch with Cassie and walking her but if I am too ill to take her for a walk the girls [staff] take her for me. She sleeps by my bed in a basket and is always with me. She gets very spoilt here that’s why she’s so fat!”

Sally used to enjoy being in a choir but can longer sing but a life-long friend visits her and takes her to see the choir perform which she still enjoys.

Sally has gained a good understanding on the disease from studying and is determined that she lives life as normally as it will allow.

“I love quiz night here, we play ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’ and I’ve won several millions!

"I also enjoy going on shopping trips with my friend here and visit Betty’s Tea Shop for tea and scones. I love visits to the cinema and theatre. Recently we saw Les Miserables and Phantom, which was great. Last year we went on an activity break in Northumberland and I enjoyed sailing, this year we are going to the Lake District and I can’t wait."

Cassie also enjoys a holiday and stays with a friend, Sally says: "She stays with a friend who has cats, she’s not used to cats but I think she enjoys teasing them."

But the pair miss each other and are soon reunited: "Cassie is such a lovie, she’s really soft to stroke, just like a teddy bear, and it’s very relaxing stroking her."

Cassie is off to the beauticians next week as she has a date with her ‘boyfriend’ (Sally’s friend's dog) and Sally is busily preparing for her 50th birthday in a next week: "Cassie is a very special friend and a special kind of dog. I get involuntary movements in my arm, so sometimes, if Cassie is on the lead, it can jolt her but she takes it all in her stride. It’s great that she is with me here."

Sue Ryder personalised care can help patients carry on doing the things they value, for Sally this was keeping her dog, trips to the theatre and seeing her old choir sing: "I like that they treat me like an individual and having Cassie is really important to me. Shopping trips and trips to Betty’s tea shop are also important, as they give me something to look forward to."

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