A Somerset mum who is dying of cancer is the face of St Margaret’s Hospice Care’s new campaign to encourage people to help others in their community.
Caroline, a mother-of-two from Wincanton, had her life turned upside down at the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cervical cancer.
Since her diagnosis, Caroline has been cared for by staff at St Margaret’s Hospice both in the community and in the hospice’s In-patient unit. Caroline, her husband Gary and her children, Sophie and Tom, have also benefitted from other services the hospice offers including complementary therapies and the hospice’s 24 hour Adviceline and are continuing to receive support.
Caroline at St Margaret's Hospice Care's In-patient Unit in Taunton
The 43-year-old’s story is at the centre of St Margaret’s Time to Care campaign which encourages people to donate to the hospice so they can continue to care for patients who are facing a life-limiting illness and their families.
“The day I was told I had cancer I remember wanting to curl up in a ball on the chair and cry,” Caroline said. “I felt like I’d lost my identity... I didn’t want to talk about my diagnosis or have it define me.
“St Margaret’s are not just here because I am dying. They are here for so much more. They’ve helped me and my family through so many difficult parts of my journey from enabling us to spend birthdays together on the in-patient unit to loaning me a wheelchair and frame to have at home which, has taken the stress out of hospital visits. They’ve made sure we as a family have been able to stay together and they understand the reality of what we’re going through. They have the time to help and care.
Caroline said St Margaret’s has enabled her to enjoy precious time with her husband and children and a donation to the hospice could change the life of someone in the community like her.
“St Margaret’s has helped me and my family in so many ways, coming to terms with my illness and my new reality. They’ve helped pull the family together at the worst time of our lives.
“For me, time is precious. Every minute and second I spend with my children is precious, I just can’t get enough of it. I don’t know how much longer I’ve got and I don’t want to know because I want it to be as natural, fun and loving as I can make it.
“I’m not going to see my kids get married and I don’t know what I’m going to say to them when the time comes – that will break me. But I know St Margaret’s will help with that, they are amazing.
“Thanks to St Margaret’s, I’ve been able to keep my pain under control, which has been the biggest battle. There’s no one else who could have given me and my family the time, support and care they’ve provided.”
Caroline and her family
Michelle Hancock, Head of Fundraising Engagement at St Margaret’s, spearheaded the Time to Care campaign. She said St Margaret’s needs the community’s help now more than ever, so it can continue to care for patients and their families.
“The special thing about St Margaret’s, so our patients and families tell us, is the time we take to listen, to care – and it’s something we’re very proud of,” Michelle said. “Right now, the hidden impacts of COVID mean that time for some is shorter than it could have been, and that the care the hospice team provides is needed by more patients than ever before.
“The knock-on effect of the pandemic - delays in diagnoses and later referrals for end of life care - mean that, as a hospice, we are seeing more patients, who are more poorly and further along their end of life journey when they come to us. And realistically, we will continue to see this for some time to come.
“We’re so grateful for the incredibly generous support of our community – as a charity, it’s the very fuel that enables us to care. But we need their help more than ever today, so we can continue to care for patients and families – like Caroline’s – and enable them to live as well as they can for as long as they can.
“I’ve had the privilege of spending many hours with Caroline and her family to prepare this fundraising appeal for St Margaret’s – and we are so very grateful to them for sharing their story. But something they told me has really stuck with me: that there is no one else but St Margaret’s who could have helped them on their journey, with time and compassion and care. So please, if you can – now is the ime to care for others in our community, when they need us the most.”
St Margaret’s, like many other charities, has felt the harsh effects of Covid-19. Fiona Harnett, Deputy Team Lead - Community Services for St Margaret’s, is one of the nurses who has helped with Caroline’s care. She said the coronavirus pandemic has had ‘a colossal impact’ on the hospice and the wider healthcare system as a whole and St Margaret’s is now facing the ‘unseen impact of COVID.’
“Delays in diagnoses and referrals for our services mean we are seeing more patients, who are more poorly and further down their end-of-life journey,” Fiona said.
Caroline at home in her garden
“Stories like Caroline’s can be really hard to read or hear, but it’s the reality for people in Somerset today. As a nurse, I understand that people are more than their diagnosis; it’s a privilege to take the time to listen and care, and help our patients live their life to fullest for as along as possible. Right now, we need the help of our community more than ever so we can continue to respond to people like Caroline, when they really need us. Please donate today if you can.”