Andy shares his experiences of St Margaret’s Hospice Care for the support and care provided to his beautiful wife and passionate reggae fan, Tanya.
Tanya & Andy's wedding anniversary, 2009.
For over a decade Tanya had been in and out of hospital for breast cancer treatment, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and various operations. She was only 41 when she found the first lump in her breast.
“Even with her cancer diagnosis, over the next five years we did so much together and continued living our lives, until during a holiday in Spain in 2016 when she found another lump. The following week we saw the oncologist and after several scans and tests Tanya underwent a mastectomy and breast reconstruction with a course of chemotherapy at Musgrove Park Hospital.
“In 2017 she was rapidly losing weight and after further tests told the cancer was incurable, with a prognosis of a few years to live. It was devastating and heart-breaking for us all.
“Tanya was incredibly strong-willed, even though she was so scared. She insisted managing her own advance care planning – she wanted to sort everything out for me, from organising her life insurance to planning her own funeral and wishes.
“We both started to access support from the St Margaret’s bereavement team, where we individually spent time with the therapist to help support us.
We decided to continue making more memories together, something that was important to us throughout our relationship. We have seen so many places and experienced so much together and encouraged each other along the way, so it was important to continue this.
Tanya & Andy's wedding vow renewals.
“Tanya received her final prognosis in 2019 after her symptoms became worse, further tests revealed it had spread to her liver. We knew then that it was going to be our last Christmas together.
“In March this year, I stopped work to be able to care for Tanya. Our 30th Wedding anniversary was coming up, we had married young, and both of us knowing each other was ‘the one’. We were married in May 1990, in Jamaica. Being massive Bob Marley fans, we got married on the beach below the Dunn’s River waterfalls - we had so much fun together.
“Tanya started planning a celebration to remember at the Castle Hotel in Taunton. Unfortunately, like so many other celebrations Tanya didn’t get to celebrate in the true style she wanted due to the covid-19 pandemic. However, within Government guidelines we were able to have a smaller gathering to celebrate with our closest family and friends, followed by a small gathering in June as restrictions relaxed. It was early August when many people saw Tanya for the last time at a friend’s birthday party.
“When it was time to think about the hospice, Tanya and I already knew about St Margaret’s, as her father had been cared for years before. When the time came this made being admitted to the hospice easier, it wasn’t the unknown. Instead she had already witnessed first-hand the love, care and dedication her father had received when he passed away. It was the right care, wonderful atmosphere, a comfortable bed and good food. She also loved the gardens and sitting to watch the wildlife.
“It is such a beautiful place run by beautiful people. The staff and volunteers, they aren’t even human - they are more like angels - they are incredible.
Due to covid, we were faced with masks and PPE but the staff and volunteers made sure we were all comfortable. This extended to her whole family, Tanya’s mum and her two sisters and I were able to spend quality time with her and we were all able to spend those last precious moments with Tanya. Everyone went the extra mile, we were able to use the Sunflower Suite, which wasn’t being used by patients due to covid restrictions and it meant in those last few days we were able to concentrate on Tanya and come together as a family.
“After a short stay, she peacefully and pain free, holding our hands passed away at the end of August. I’ll never forget the last words Tanya spoke to me – ‘I love you ever so much, forever’.
Tanya & Andy in Tokyo, January 2018.
“The morning after Tanya passed away I updated my Facebook status with a tribute to her, I put up a beautiful photo of her with her sparkly eyes and big smile. Within hours over £1000 had been donated from friends all over the world. It was such a fitting tribute to Tanya, who made friends wherever she went all through her life. Anyone who knew Tanya would be able to tell you of her love of the reggae band UB40, she’d been a huge fan since she was 14 years old – attending over 180 concerts. This passion led to a friendship with the band members as well as their families. In fact, UB40 dedicated a whole reggae radio show to Tanya, one of their biggest fans and long-time friend and on the morning of her funeral the band sent a beautiful massive wreath of flowers. So many people donating in such a short time was heart-warming, like me people loved Tanya and she will be missed.
“This year I’ll be lighting up Tanya’s life by dedicating a star in her memory. She had the heart of a lion and the determination to do and say things I could never had done without her by my side for all those years. You’re still my strength, my weakness the love from the start and the beat in my heart.”