Kirsty Hodgson’s mum Kathleen spent the last two weeks of her life at Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice in Leeds in August 2016. Here, she recounts their story and explains why they made plans were put in place for the end of her mum's life.
My mum was told on 15th July 2016 that her cancer was back and given six to nine months to live, but she went downhill really quickly. Sue Ryder got in touch a week after she received the diagnosis and, from the first day they got involved, they were visiting constantly and always at the end of the phone.
I rang them one Saturday evening because I was concerned about my mum and I had a chat with a Sue Ryder Nurse who arranged for someone to come out the next day. I will always remember her asking: “Who is looking after you?”; I thought she meant looking after Mum so I said: “Me” – but, no, she meant looking after me.
She told me they were at the end of the phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week and to call whenever I needed them. Knowing I had that support was so comforting at a very difficult time.
“Nothing was too much trouble.”
When they suggested that Mum should go into Wheatfields Hospice to sort out her medication, I went with her. That first night I slept so well because I knew she was well taken care of. Up until then I had been trying to look after her on my own as well as working full time so I hadn’t been sleeping.
Everyone was so nice when we went in. It’s so different from hospital. All the staff introduced themselves and, because I was on my own with my mum, the nurses would come and make sure I was okay too. There is a buzzer in each room that you can ring if you need anything – even a cup of tea.
Mum had her 70th birthday at Wheatfields and we did manage to have a little celebration. One of the things I remember most is one of the nurses offering Mum a drink – she asked for a pinot grigio, and she got it! Nothing was too much trouble.
Mum died on 31st August 2016. The day after she died, I had to go back into the hospice to collect some papers and I remember thinking: ‘It’s weird but I’m going to miss this place.’ I do sometimes go back and sit in the garden.; it has a calm feeling and I feel at peace there.
Why Mum and I talked about what she would want at the end of her life
Back when my dad died of a heart attack, it was very sudden, and Mum and I realised we didn’t know much about what he would have wanted for his funeral. Because of that, Mum and I had talked about what she would want at the end of her life.
One thing she was adamant about was that the song at the end of her funeral would be Enjoy Yourself by Jools Holland. She loved that song and wanted to make people smile; she had a really good sense of humour.
When Mum found out the cancer was terminal, she asked me if I wanted to be there when she died and I said I did – and I was.
“Without Sue Ryder's bereavement counselling, I don’t know where I would be.”
I have had such good support from Wheatfields since she died. Without the bereavement counselling, I don’t know where I would be. My counsellor was very patient and so helpful. There are times when you think you’re being a bit crazy and she would just say: “No, that’s completely normal.”
I had bereavement counselling for around 18 months and there was never any pressure to put a time limit on the sessions.
I have since raised over £1,000 for Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice by giving up chocolate for 40 days – Mum would have been astounded because she knew I was a chocaholic (like her!). My employer Willis Towers Watson matched what I raised so it was more than £2,000 in the end.
It’s nice to think that other families will be able to have the amazing support from Wheatfields that we did.
Our useful Sue Ryder 'A Better Death' guide can help you discuss dying and plan for the end of life that you want.
Daughter of patient
Kirsty’s mum Kathleen spent the last two weeks of her life at Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice in Leeds in August 2016. Since then she has been fundraising so others can receive the same care her family did.