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“I’m lucky that I had the most amazing man in my life” says Crawley woman whos husband received care at St Catherines Hospice

To tie in with Valentine’s Day, Valerie Phelps from Crawley, reflects on the care her husband Les received from St Catherine’s Hospice in Crawley, West Sussex.

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“My husband, Les, was an amazing man and the kindness he always gave out was rewarded with the kindness and care he received from the Community Team at St Catherine’s Hospice.

Les was a straightforward, military, no fuss man. He had the biggest heart and said few words. Some days, we would spend the whole time in each other’s company hardly saying a word to each other, unless he wanted a cup of tea which was often! My family always believed that I was the stronger of the two of us and the one who pulled all the strings. But how wrong they were! I’m actually the weaker of us. It was Les who managed our home in every way, with his quiet nature, kindness and love for me, his family and anyone else who needed his help.

When St Catherine’s Community Team first became involved with Les, it came across that I was the strong one. But as the nurses came to know him, they realised he was an amazingly strong man. And although a man of few words, the few he spoke, often spoke volumes. Together, I and the hospice nurses, who helped manage Les’s pain, had to do things slowly as he wasn’t only battling cancer and facing end of life, but was also battling PTSD from his time in the military. During that time I learnt things about my husband that he’d always shielded from me before. His drugs started to bring out the horrors of what he had gone through at different times in the forces, but fortunately for him he remembered very little of this.

When the consultant first mentioned referring Les to St Catherine’s, it was like he’d thrown a brick at Les’s head. To Les, a hospice just meant a bed, a room and him dying alone with strangers. He was inconsolable for several days until a St Catherine’s nurse came to see him at home.

I was absolutely amazed at the courage he managed to find in making the decisions he did after speaking with her for the first time. It was a great comfort to know that we could speak openly and honestly with the hospice team and to know that Les’s wish of dying at home was going to be met, if possible. Although we were aware that if there were complications he may have to go to the hospital or the hospice.

As the weeks progressed, Les decided that he would like to speak with the hospice chaplain after finding his baptism certificate. The first time, we did this together as Les was becoming weaker and I had to be his voice, but even then, Les made Lisa, the chaplain, and I laugh. Les had a few more sessions with Lisa alone and the peace she left in him helped us both. Her kindness and understanding to me in losing someone I’ve loved since I was teenager was also amazing.

When the time came, I could see Les’s eyes glazing over. I kept asking if he was in pain and he said no, just uncomfortable. I told Les I loved him and that I didn’t want to lose him, but that I wouldn’t beg him to stay. Our son, Neil put his arms around his Dad, and gently whispered to him that his two brothers (who’d already passed away) were waiting for him at the bar and that the older one had his hand in his pocket. He told his dad that it was okay for him to go as he shouldn’t miss the opportunity of a free drink!

We put Les’s cat, Luna, on the bed and ten minutes later, with two sweet silent breaths my wonderful man left me in the way he wanted. Peacefully in his own home with his family around him. It was something that was only possible thanks to St Catherine’s expert support and wonderful team.

Although Les’s loss has been hard to bear, I’m lucky that I had the most amazing man in my life. People reading this may think it’s painful for me to share this, and in a way it is, but in another way it’s also helping me to heal. It’s important that the perception of hospice care and what it means is changed. Yes, across the UK there will be people who have to be in their local hospice, because that’s their choice, or because they aren’t lucky enough to have the family or amazing network of support around them that we did, but the majority of people are looked after, and able to stay in the comfort of their own homes.

Without St Catherine’s, I don’t know how we, as a family, would have got through things. With hospice care you’re not alone. Without people like the St Catherine’s team in our lives the world would be a very sad place. And that’s something I’ve come to realise. Although we never want to lose our loved ones, death doesn’t have to be as painful as we believe it will be.

I’m so glad I’ve had the privilege of St Catherine’s kindness, help and care for both my wonderful husband and myself.”

To find out more about the work of St Catherine’s Hospice or to make a donation please visit: www.stch.org.uk

Charity

Crawley MP wears it pink for Breast Cancer Now

Henry Smith MP added a dash of pink to his usual attire in support of Breast Cancer Now’s Wear It Pink fundraiser, which takes place on Friday 18th October.

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Since launching in 2002, Wear It Pink has raised over £33 million to date. Henry is calling on Crawley residents to join him and sign up for Wear It Pink to help to make possible life-saving breast cancer research and life-changing support for those affected by the disease.

Henry said;

“Every year in the UK, around 55,000 women and around 350 men are given the devastating news that they have breast cancer.

“This is why I urge everyone in Crawley to take part in Breast Cancer Now’s Wear It Pink day on Friday 18th October. 

“The money raised by this wonderful event has such a huge impact, allowing Breast Cancer Now to fund vital research and support for those living with a diagnosis. I hope that everybody will Wear It Pink this October and support this very important cause.”

Anyone can take part in Wear It Pink. Some people will choose to hold a cake sale, while others will opt to organise a raffle and some will arrange a pink fancy dress day at their school or workplace. No matter how people chose to Wear It Pink, all the money raised will help to fund vital breast cancer research and support.

Baroness Morgan, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Now, commented;

“Breast cancer still affects so many of us, and our goal as a charity is that by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer will live, and be supported to live well. The money raised from Wear It Pink is so crucial to helping us to fund vital breast cancer research and support for those affected by the disease.

“We hope that by wearing pink, Henry Smith MP will encourage more people to Wear It Pink on 18th October and help us to continue to fund vital breast cancer research and support.”

Joining Henry on the day were four Breast Cancer Now supporters who have been affected by breast cancer, including Kate, from Worthing, who was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in 2015.

She said;

“When I was diagnosed my world turned up-side down. Secondary breast cancer means that it has spread to other parts of the body, making it incurable – but for me it’s treatable for some time. It’s truly incredible how breast cancer treatments have advanced over the years and it really gives me hope for the future.

“It is so important that we continue to raise money, so that nobody will lose their lives to this devastating disease in the future. This is why I’m calling for everyone to take a stand against breast cancer by taking part in Breast Cancer Now’s Wear It Pink on Friday 18th October. It’s a great way of raising vital funds for breast cancer research for the future, and care for those affected by the disease now.”

In April 2019, Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Now merged to create the UK’s first comprehensive breast cancer charity, united around the shared ambition that by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer will live, and be supported to live well. Every Wear It Pink donation will help towards this goal.

Wear It Pink on 18th October and raise funds for breast cancer research and support. Visit www.wearitpink.org/mp to register and claim your free fundraising pack.

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