Louise's story

Last updated: June 23rd 2023

When Louise Comely was diagnosed with cancer for the second time in 2021 at the age of 40, it was the news she didn’t want to hear.

Louise had previously battled breast cancer and gone into remission so when she started getting tension headaches in May 2021, she initially just put it down to Covid-19. But just a few weeks later at a routine optician’s appointment Louise was told they had found something that would need investigation.

“They had found a tumour behind my eye and the hospital confirmed it was cancer, I didn’t expect that from an eyesight test,” Louise said “It was the return of my breast cancer, but it had unfortunately spread to my brain.

“I had chemotherapy and radiotherapy to try and fight it, but it didn’t work and its now spread to my shoulder, hip, bones, and lymph nodes. When I asked the doctor for my prognosis after I was told my cancer was terminal, she told me I’d probably have five years left, but I wouldn’t have 10.  I was told I had terminal cancer a year ago and as time goes on all I want is more time with my family.”

Louise was referred to St Margaret’s shortly after her diagnosis and it quickly became her ‘first port of call.’ Since she’s been under the hospice’s care, Louise has been a regular visitor to the Sunflower Centre.

“St Margaret’s is like a home from home, even if I’ve been feeling ill, I still come in as you feel like you are being well taken care of and it’s a lovely place to be” Louise said. “I’ve been coming to the Sunflower Centre for a while now and it’s been amazing as I have learnt some new skills which I can take home with me.”

The Sunflower Centre provides specialist support and advice for patients with life-limiting illness who are well enough to live at home but need to access the specialist support St Margaret’s can offer. 

Creating memory boxes is one of the activities the Sunflower Centre team facilitates to help patients to create something special which they can give to their families to remind them of the good times they spent together and offer them some comfort.

“The staff and volunteers in the Sunflower Centre are like a ray of light, they brighten up my Monday mornings. I love to make artwork so making memory boxes has been really therapeutic. Each one takes on its own shape as you do it and they are all totally different. I’m planning to fill each one with photos, trinkets and personal letters and cards. It’s difficult to put on paper how much someone means to you but it’s so important. It’s been great to be able to create something unique and talk openly to the staff and volunteers about what has happened each week as well as what is happening to me and any fears I have.

“The team just make you feel so comfortable and it’s nice to just be able to have a laugh and a cry if you need to with people who don’t judge you. I’d never heard of memory boxes before I came to St Margaret’s. I’m creating memory boxes for the important people in my life, my two sons, two brothers, my partner and my best friend and I think they are a great way to leave a legacy for the people you love, and it’s been great to have the support to make them.

Louise has also benefitted from support from our Complementary Therapy Team and Spiritual Care Team and said it’s made even the hardest weeks bearable.

“The Complementary Therapy Team at St Margaret’s are wonderful. The treatments they offer make you feel so much better in yourself physically and mentally and you go out with a smile on your face,” Louise said. “It feels like a weight has been lifted off. So far, I’ve had reflexology, Reiki and full body massage.  I haven’t tried Indian head massage, but I want to give it a go! It feels like such a luxury.

“I’ve also spoken to Ann from Spiritual Care Team. I’m not a religious person but spiritually at St Margaret’s Hospice isn’t necessarily about religion.  She has helped me to talk through my wishes and about what is coming next for me, I’ve felt really supported.”

“St Margaret’s are there for you 100%,” Louise said. “They helped me to get the equipment I needed like a walking stick, a Zimmer frame and a wheelchair as my mobility deteriorated and also helped me to get a Blue Badge. It took the pressure off for me. When I’m in the Sunflower Centre it’s like having a holiday. They make you feel like a guest at a nice hotel, not a patient and they just make you feel so comfortable and cared for.”

Since her diagnosis, Louise said her life has changed in ways she never thought possible, but her main priority is spending quality time with her loved ones.

“To be diagnosed with cancer at 40 and being told that it’s terminal is heart-wrenching,” Louise said. “I never expected to have cancer at this time in my life, there are so many things I want to do. One thing I miss is swimming. I love to swim but I can’t swim very far anymore because of the cancer. It seems a small thing but it’s just one of the ways my life has changed so much. I used to love just going for a swim and then come home and chill, I haven’t done that in so long and I hope to do it again soon.

“Another change I’ve had to come to terms with is getting a mobility scooter. I used to walk everywhere so I put it off for a while as I thought people would be staring at me, but I just don’t care anymore. It’s not something I ever expected to get but it helps me to get around. I need to get on with being me and being with my family while I can so who cares if people stare?”

“My boys are both grown up, they are 19 and 21. My youngest, Owen, is doing an apprenticeship and my eldest, Stuart, has his own company which is based around the theatre and events, and he’s just bought his first home. I’m extremely proud of them both.  I fear missing out on the important things in their life. I may not see my first grandchild being born or my boys getting married.

“For me, St Margaret’s has been amazing. Just knowing I can call them anytime with no judgement is such a comfort,” Louise said. “Having days at the Sunflower Centre where you can just come in, relax and talk to others who are in a similar situation to yourself is lovely. I don’t know what I’d do without St Margaret’s. I’d just be stuck at home on my own. They are such a big support to me.”

By supporting St Margaret’s at the Sunflower Stroll, you can help patients like Louise to have precious time with their family and get the care and support they need.


Click here to book your place at our Taunton Sunflower Stroll

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