Putting the 'rest' in respite care

20 Mar 2019

Abi Brown, 42, was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer in March 2018. She has recently been an inpatient at Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice for two weeks of respite care. In her own words, Abi describes her time at the hospice.

I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in December 2016 (stage 2 and isolated) and – following treatment including both chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and an operation in August 2016 resulting in a permanent colostomy – I was given the all clear. I was back to living an active life, which included running my own recruitment business and going to the gym regularly.

Devastatingly, in March 2018 I was given the overwhelming news that my cancer had returned and was terminal. This was a huge blow and took time to process, but I carried on with the business while undertaking a gruelling ten rounds of chemotherapy.

More recently, I undertook an isolated radiotherapy session that we knew would cause more pain before it eased. Despite taking a lot of pain relief, my pain was becoming too severe and affecting my quality of life.

Disturbed sleep played a big part and led to my palliative nurse recommending a stay at Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice.

"The team at the hospice really are so compassionate; nothing was ever too much trouble"

I visited the hospice on the 12th December to talk things through and the Sue Ryder Nurses spoke to me about the choices I had around my care. We discussed a plan for pain relief and then I was given a room at the hospice a day later. I was so grateful; it’s a lovely place and everyone is so kind.

I settled in, adding cards and flowers to the room, and thanks to the expert care, I soon felt more comfortable and happier in myself. In the days that followed I was able to have a full night’s sleep, something that I’d not been able to achieve for a long time due to the pain I had been experiencing.

Visitors can pop in at any point and a constant stream of family and friends helped keep my spirits up. I received a lot of flowers and one wonderful Sue Ryder volunteer, Jules, made sure to arrange them for me each day. The team at the hospice really are so compassionate; nothing was ever too much trouble.

Making sure I could spend Christmas Day at home

The Sue Ryder Nurses ensured I was able to leave the hospice and spend Christmas Day at home for all the festivities, as I’d requested, and then I returned to the hospice that evening. I really appreciated the fact that the decision regarding my discharge was an open discussion.

We set a goal date of 27th December to leave the hospice and, in the days prior to this, I made trips out to my home in Newbury, which meant I could enjoy a few hours celebrating Christmas with my partner and family before returning to the hospice that evening and sleeping all day on Boxing Day - which my body clearly needed! Fatigue was probably the biggest side effect from the radiotherapy.

I met my goal date and felt confident enough to leave on the 27th December. The nurses gave me the required medication, including three new drugs added to my regime, and I then set off for five days on the south coast. The hospice also kindly loaned us a wheelchair to use as I was finding walking very difficult; this made a huge difference and ensured our trip was enjoyed. Since then occupational therapists have followed up with me to ensure I’m comfortable. 

I’m so very thankful to all the team at Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice team. You are wonderful!

Update November 2019

It is with great sadness that we share the news that Abi died in November 2019.

Everyone at Sue Ryder is so proud to have had Abi's amazing support over the time she was in our care, and we send our very best wishes to her friends and family.

About respite care at Sue Ryder

We offer short-stay respite care at some of our hospices. This is for people who require short-term support – after being in hospital, for example, or simply to give them and their carer a break from routine. People can book one-off or regular stays, or come to us in an emergency.

Find out more by contacting your local hospice.

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