‘The hospice gave us some life back.’
Phillip Montgomery, who died just after Christmas last year following his diagnosis of incurable cancer, went through more than a year of appointments and tests before being diagnosed.
‘When I came out of hospital [following my diagnosis], I was sent with a packet of pills and told I had terminal cancer. … I came home, and I tried to manage the drugs and my pain levels on my own,’ Phillip said. ‘I went from different extremes and stages of pain — from writhing on the floor in pain to being ‘spaced out’ on drugs. But then Gwen [a Hospice Community Nurse Specialist at Weston Hospicecare] came in, and I became a person again.’
Generally, following a referral from the hospital or another healthcare professional, everyone who is cared for by the hospice is assigned a Hospice Community Nurse Specialist, who oversees and helps to coordinate their care. Gwen Harding, who has been with Weston Hospicecare for more than four years, was in charge of Phillip’s care.
Both Phillip and his wife, Denise, commented during the interview how much they appreciated the hospice’s holistic approach that didn’t leave them feeling like ‘just a number’.
‘Everyone at the hospice talks to one another — from the physiotherapist to the massage ladies, who’ve helped me with my back and given me foot massages. The whole package has been so professionally put together that I want to say thank you,’ Phillip said. ‘I feel so emotional about it.’
Denise then added, ‘The hospice gave us some life back.’
In addition to being cared for by Gwen, Phillip also spent two weeks in the hospice’s In-Patient Unit, where nurses there helped him work on problems with sleeping, eating and his digestion. After two weeks of careful monitoring, Phillip was able to return home with support from the hospice, as he wanted to do.
‘Going in and being analysed for a solution to my pain problem was the biggest step forward,’ Phillip said. ‘When I went in, there was no time pressure. It was, ‘We’ll get it right; we’ll get it sorted.’’
Denise continued, ‘Nothing is too much. It’s not just that they make you feel at home; they make you feel part of the family.’
Although much of the care focussed on Phillip, the hospice also supported Denise and the couple’s daughters. When the In-Patient Unit nurses saw Denise crying after she left Phillip’s room one evening, they arranged for the hospice’s counsellor to talk to her and offered her massages. The hospice has also tried to help support the children.
‘Our daughters are 14 and 17. We’re very open and don’t hide anything, and Gwen has been a good influence on them,’ Denise said. ‘They’ve taken on Gwen’s calm approach.’
‘They’re all living angels, and I’m so humbled to meet people like them,’ Denise said.
‘They’re so professional,’ Phil added. ‘I don’t know how to put it into words. When I was there, they gave me a life. There’s understanding, there’s empathy. So many things come into the caring package. It’s personalised — you’re a person. Their kindness …’
‘It’s too much to put into words,’ Denise finished.