Marlene's story

Last updated: Monday, 12 June 2023

When Marlene moved to Somerset in 2022 to be closer to her daughter in law, she found the move to a new county much harder than she expected.

Marlene was living in Basingstoke but sadly had a big seizure and was hospitalised. After she recovered Marlene moved to Yeovil, but she struggled as her new home was smaller than what she was used to, and she felt lonely.

“I didn’t know anyone in the local area, and it was a quiet little road, I hated it. All I wanted to do was move back to Basingstoke.”

Shortly after moving to Somerset, Marlene started visiting a respiratory clinic at Yeovil District Hospital for treatment for severe breathlessness and a few months later she was diagnosed with suspected lung cancer. Marlene was then referred to St Margaret’s Hospice’s Sunflower Centre in Yeovil for support and she hasn’t looked back since.

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

Staff at the Sunflower Centre offer a wide range of activities to encourage patients to work through their feelings of anxiety and worry which includes anything from decorating a giant photo frame for last year’s Sunflower Stroll to meeting alpacas in the hospice gardens. And it’s these activities that helped Marlene to regain her independence and find purpose in her life again.

“I started going to the Sunflower Centre towards the end of last year and it’s completely turned my life around,” Marlene said. “I felt anxious when I first walked in as I’d never been into a hospice before, but everyone fell over backwards to be kind and supportive, it made such a difference.

“Laughter really is the best medicine out there and I just wish every day was a Tuesday as when I come to the Sunflower Centre, I am truly my happiest. I was recently diagnosed with suspected lung cancer and have become very breathless, so I am now on oxygen and have been told to quit smoking. It was difficult news to hear but the Sunflower Centre have been there to support me every step of the way.

“Every day is different at the Sunflower Centre, we do so many different activities which are so fun and interesting. We’ve done everything from golf and archery in the beautiful gardens at Yeovil to quizzes, bingo, and colouring which I love! I’ve found lots of activities really interest me, so I have now taken them up as hobbies. I’ve got lots of adult colouring books which are a great way for me to keep myself busy at home, I really enjoy colouring.

“I don’t really see anyone at home so it’s easy for me to get bored and lonely, I only see my daughter-in-law occasionally so it’s nice for me to have something to do which I enjoy. I never would have thought about doing any of these activities before I went to the Sunflower Centre but doing these things has changed my life. It’s made me much happier as it’s given me purpose and enabled me to have fun at home.

“One of the other things I love about coming to the hospice is seeing what new goodies are in the hospice shop. I joke with the staff in the Sunflower Centre that I’m their best customer at the hospice shop and it’s probably true. I always pop down there when I come in each week, and I’ve picked up some beautiful things which I use all the time. It’s a lovely place to visit as you walk into reception.

“I’ve been getting into crafting more and more since I’ve been coming to the Sunflower Centre, and I wanted to use my new-found passion to give something back to the hospice. I recently bought a diamond art keyring craft set and am making some beautiful keyrings with owls on them which I plan to give to the ladies in reception so they can sell them in the hospice shop.

“I’m really enjoying making them. It feels wonderful to be doing something to be able to give back to the hospice while doing something I enjoy.”

Marlene has also benefited from support for her breathlessness from our Physiotherapy Team and said this support has strengthened her confidence and helped her to regain her independence.

“My breathlessness has a real impact on my mental and physical health. Sometimes I get panic attacks because my breathing is raspy, and I can struggle to catch my breath. It’s awful and it makes me feel very anxious, especially if I am alone. The more I struggle to breathe, the more I panic, it’s a vicious circle.

“When I told the Physiotherapy Team about my symptoms, they came up with a plan to help me straight away which put me at ease. They gave me some breathlessness exercises and coping techniques which I do every day at home, and they have made a massive difference to me. Now, if I am out shopping and I am struggling to breathe I use the tools they gave me to cope and regain control of my breathing and stop me from panicking. It makes me feel much more confident when I am going out.

“The patients at the Sunflower Centre are just as supportive as the staff, it’s wonderful community to be a part of. I wanted to do something positive while on my journey to quit smoking so I decided to raise sponsorship for St Margaret’s. I told some of my friends from the Sunflower Centre that I was quitting smoking and asked them if they’d be happy to donate some money to the hospice and they were more than happy to get involved.

“It feels great to give something back to the hospice which has helped me so much. It’s kept me motivated while trying to quit smoking so it’s a win-win. I’d encourage people across our community to support St Margaret’s Hospice, they really do make such a big difference to people’s lives.”

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