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Alison’s Story

Mark Birnie from Chesterfield was diagnosed with skin cancer last year, but despite receiving treatment, unfortunately it was discovered that the cancer had spread to his brain.

It was at this point that Mark, age 48, and his wife, Alison were put in touch with Ashgate Hospicecare, who initially did everything they possibly could to keep Mark comfortable at home for as long as possible. Their home was assessed by an Occupational Therapist and they were visited by an Ashgate Hospicecare Nurse. All the equipment was provided to ensure Mark’s comfort at home.

Mark said, “By the time I came out of the Hallamshire, they’d been around and the house was unrecognisable. It was very reassuring for Alison and important that she had some support.”

Eventually, Mark was admitted to the Ashgate Hospicecare’s inpatient unit to receive pain and symptom control.

Alison said, “I can’t tell you what a relief it’s been to be here and how lovely everybody is, so generous and kind. What’s really impressive about the Hospice is that Mark is a really active fit man, a golfer, goes to the gym, all those things, and the Hospice recognises this and responds to it, each individual person – it’s very person-centred.

Mark likes to go for a constitutional and there’s no panic, you know, that he’s out having a walk round because people know it’s really important for Mark to do that. The internet is also a huge part of Mark’s life and the IT person was brilliant with Mark – everyone really bends over backwards to get things right.

We are absolutely overwhelmed at the kindness of everyone and very grateful. People are interested in Mark’s story as a person. Just the small things all build up and make a huge difference.”

Mark added, “All the staff are on first name terms. Nice rooms, and the food? – too nice! Every morning, I just take photographs of the breakfast and email them to my mates at work – they’re all jealous!”

Alison continued, “For us, the Hospice has kind of tracked our journey and it’s come in and out of our lives as and when we’ve needed it, it’s sorted us when we’ve needed it and it’s a good thing for people to understand that it’s not just one thing, its all things.

“I would say to anyone don’t be scared of it, use the benefits and enjoy the benefits and be grateful. Yes, we’re lucky that we’ve got this place, we’re lucky we’ve got what we’ve got right now. Our lives have been turned upside down in the last 18 months and there’s nothing special about us.”

“Ashgate Hospicecare is a community resource that you may need or your family may need but it is also something that really does make a difference to peoples lives. It’s that calmness when everything feels as if it’s all falling apart.

“We’ve been fortunate in many ways and it continues in Ashgate Hospicecare. Everybody just got hold of us and gave us a big cuddle and sorted everything out for us and took away all our worries. You don’t just come in here as a poorly person – you are all of who you are.”