My mam, Dorothy Briggs.
My mam was diagnosed with lung cancer in September 2012 and it was ‘controlled’ until April 2015 when we were told it had spread to her lungs. Mam took it quite well but over a period of 2/3 months and her living alone, it became obvious she wasn’t coping well and wasn’t taking her medication correctly. The local district nurse, social services and palliative care nurses became involved and mam had all the equipment possible to help her cope at home. She was self-administering medication including morphine but became confused in her daily life and with her medication. She was admitted to a care home for respite care but unfortunately had a fall and broke her hip and was then admitted to hospital. It was a terrible time because we all thought we had lost her there and then. After an operation and a number of weeks in hospital it was decided she required special care and that was our introduction to Ashgate. Again we thought – hospice - end of life – it was a very scary time. Mam was very poorly
From the moment we arrived at the Hospice it just felt so right. All the staff were fantastic and fully explained what they were doing and why. After a few days mam started to look a little better and was more responsive and one day when I walked into her room she was sat up in bed looking like her old self. The nurses were always in and out, having a laugh and joke with mam and us. It was great, a real homely atmosphere; even to the extent that mam thought she was in another nursing home and kept saying that she would like to stay for good. One time when one of my brothers was visiting mam, it was a lovely day and the nurses opened up the French doors of her room and pushed her bed out into the court-yard so that they could chat and have a cup of tea in the sunshine. Soon after that day she was able to be hoisted into a wheelchair and we would push her around the beautiful gardens and sit in a quiet corner and talk or just take in the tranquil surroundings.
The gardens are always kept so beautiful. Mam loved Ashgate and everyone she came into contact with there – doctors, nurses and the volunteers who provide their time so freely. Everyone was so friendly to mam and to us. After a few weeks mam had to leave Ashgate as she was as well as she could be and required permanent nursing care, so we found her a home close to her family home. Unfortunately after a week she started to deteriorate again and 10 days after leaving the Hospice she passed away. That was on 22 August 2015. I know though that she was given care and love from everyone at Ashgate and I can’t speak highly enough of everyone there and will sing their praises to anyone and everyone for making my mam so happy during the last few weeks of her life. I will be eternally grateful to them and in recognition of the brilliant service that they provide I have taken part in the Sparkle Walk for the past 2 years (already signed up for next year) to help raise funds for the fantastic charity. My husband and other family members have also taken part and have also signed up for next year. I can only say that until you need the help and care from a special organisation as Ashgate Hospice, you don’t understand what they do. The whole experience of their care and support is so comforting to everyone that enters through the door. Each and every member of staff is truly an Angel in disguise. Thank you Ashgate from the bottom of my heart.
John and Mary
"After two weeks on the Inpatient Unit, I realised that I was in the very heart of the hospice and felt most humbled by the huge amount of tender loving care which fills its heart"
John Randles, (81), from Dronfield was diagnosed with heart problems in 2003. Having been referred to Ashgate Hospicecare by his GP, John was offered a bed on their Inpatient Unit where his symptoms could be effectively managed. In his own words, John wrote a letter to the team at Ashgate sharing his personal experience of the hospice. John said: “It all began after a bladder examination at Chesterfield Royal Hospital. Water retention developed until I could barely walk and a month of pills taken orally had not helped. My GP, knowing that a weak heart was part of the problem, arranged a visit to use the specialist treatments available at Ashgate Hospicecare.
"So there I was, bag packed and frightened of an unknown future. But I was soon calmed down by a coffee and a chat with the Activities Coordinator, who had a lovely southern Irish Cork accent. My treatment was carefully explained by the doctors. Slow but steady progress was made in the first week with various tweaks to my medication. “I felt short of exercise so asked for, and quickly received, a physiotherapist called Stephen. He put some exercises together for me with detailed information on how to get the best out of them. The exercises have rapidly improved my swollen legs and helped me to lose ten pounds in the second week, helped of course by Ashgate’s equipment. “After two weeks on the In-patient Unit, I realised that I was in the very heart of the hospice and felt most humbled by the huge amount of tender loving care which fills its heart. Besides the care, there are many regular physical checks. Bed sores, for example, have no chance to develop. The food is very, very nice, and with choices for each course, it is easy to overeat as the dishes seem designed to tempt. There are frequent surprises too such as Chantilly cream and Apple strudel! Perhaps most important is that everything is sparkling clean – there’s no risk of an upset tum from this food! “I’m going home a new man after careful treatment at the hospice.
I cannot thank the staff at all levels enough. The things I’ll remember the most are the happy giggles from staff trickling up and down the corridors, breakfast and a three course lunch served on a doily covered tray and a cheerful good morning.” Feeling upbeat and rejuvenated, John returned home but sadly died a few weeks later. His wife, Margaret, says: "Ashgate enabled John to have a few upbeat weeks at home and a holiday at Christmas which we are very grateful for. £450 was collected at his funeral which is being donated to the hospice."
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Our amazing nurses cover the North Derbyshire district and they made 2000 home visits last year alone.
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‘I’m so glad I’ve come’ because she kept saying how lovely everybody was and how they couldn’t do enough to help her.”
Nicki Kehoe was diagnosed with brain cancer in September 2013, just two weeks after her and her best friend Natalie had booked to go to Las Vegas. It was soon discovered that the brain cancer was secondary, and in fact the primary cause was lung cancer. Nicki was put in touch with Ashgate Hospicecare when she was first diagnosed, but it wasn’t until December 2014 that she was admitted to their Inpatient Unit. Natalie, 37, says: “Nicki wanted to stay at home and was a bit reluctant about going to the hospice at first. I think she saw going to the hospice as admitting defeat, and she didn’t want to do that. But in the end she did say ‘I’m so glad I’ve come’ because she kept saying how lovely everybody was and how they couldn’t do enough to help her.” Unfortunately, Nicki deteriorated quickly and died at the hospice on 15th January 2015 – just 3 weeks after she was first admitted. She was 42.
Although Nicki wanted to be at home, Natalie can find some comfort in knowing that her last few weeks were spent in a similar environment. “Ashgate is very different to other medical environments. It’s very welcoming and Nicki always had an influx of visitors. The whole family can come to visit at any time and although it’s still a hospital setting, it’s far better. Me, Nicki and her sister had a girls night in one night. We brought Mcdonalds and Baileys to the hospice and sat in Nicki’s room watching X Factor on the TV. It was like she had her own little home in her room. She had a pin board with pictures on it and her own blanket from home, so it felt really homely and less like a hospital. The staff are really lovely too – always asking if you wanted a drink.” In 2014, Nicki and Natalie organised a Zumbathon and craft fair which raised nearly £3,000 for Ashgate Hospicecare. Since Nicki’s death, Natalie has continued to fundraise for the hospice by running the 2015 Chesterfield Marathon.
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“I’m not sure what we would have done without the help of Ashgate Hospicecare."
Dave Johnson, 53, from Brampton was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer on Christmas Eve 2013. Despite undergoing chemotherapy to stabilise the tumour, which was successful to begin with, Dave was readmitted to hospital where he was put in touch with Ashgate Hospicecare. His daughter, Karlie, shares her story on the care provided to her dad in the lead up to his death.
Despite undergoing chemotherapy to stabilise the tumour, which was successful to begin with, Dave was readmitted to hospital where he was put in touch with Ashgate Hospicecare. His daughter, Karlie, shares her story on the care provided to her dad in the lead up to his death. Karlie, 23, says “I was devastated to find out that not only did my dad have cancer, but that it was also terminal. In August 2014, dad was admitted to hospital for sickness where he was told he would have to go on a liquid diet because he hadn’t been eating so his stomach had shrunk around the tumour.
The nurses at the hospital had someone from Ashgate Hospicecare come and talk with him about his diet, where they said they would help him with his eating so he could get the nutrition he needed. When dad left hospital, Helen – one of the Clinical Nurse Specialists at Ashgate Hospicecare – started visiting him at home to check how he was feeling. “Two weeks after his release from hospital, dad still wasn’t eating what he’d been given and wasn’t getting any better. My mum and I didn’t know what to do – we thought if we left him there he was just going to die. My mum called the doctor but could only get a telephone appointment for a few days later. So we called Ashgate Hospicecare instead in the hope that there was something they could do to help.
We had always known about the hospice as we knew people that had been there, but we didn’t know too much about how they worked. “Helen came out to have a chat with us and asked dad if he would like to have a bed at the hospice. Dad said he didn’t want to go there to die, but Helen explained that he would only be going there so they could give him around the clock care and get him back on his feet. She said he would probably only be there for around 2 weeks, so dad agreed and they got him a bed for the following week. “The day came for dad to go to Ashgate and we were all really nervous. None of us had ever had any experience with a hospice before and we wondered what it would be like. When we got there we were pleasantly surprised – it wasn’t like a hospital at all! Dad was shown to his room and they explained how it all worked. They said that if he wanted anything he just had to ask and they would try and get it for him. Failing that, we could always bring it in for him. He explained that he liked cold things like ice cream and ice lollies as they soothed his mouth and throat and were easy to eat. He was asked if he liked Baileys and said that he did, so right away they brought him a bowl of ice cream with some Baileys at the bottom and left him to settle in. “The doctors at the hospice visited dad every day to explain what they were going to do to help get him back on his feet. The care is definitely more personal to you than in a hospital and dad definitely relaxed at the hospice knowing that he was getting the care he needed. The facilities at the hospice were really amazing too.
Things that we take for granted like having a bath after a long day – that was all dad wanted and they allowed him to have one. He was given a private room too that had a patio with a table and chairs. It was like a little sun trap – we’d take dad out there when he was having a good day and we’d sit in the sun and eat chocolate and share cans of pop. I treasure those memories from his last few weeks, and it was Ashgate Hospicecare that made it all possible.” After just 4 weeks at the hospice, Dave sadly died on 7th October 2014 whilst Karlie was on holiday in Turkey. Karlie adds, “I’m not sure what we would have done without the help of Ashgate Hospicecare. They took a load off of our shoulders so we could just focus on dad and how he was. They were amazing from start to finish and always kept us in the loop. “To say thank you to the hospice for the amazing care they gave, I decided to do a skydive in memory of dad in early 2015 to raise money for Ashgate. Dad said he was going to do one for charity before he was diagnosed with cancer, so when he got poorly I said I would do it instead. I was waiting until he got better so he could come and watch, but sadly he passed away before I did it. After many months of fundraising, I finally did my skydive and managed to raise a grand total of £2067.06! I work at The Rose and Crown in Brampton and they’ve also pledged to raise £5,000 for the hospice’s £1 Million Urgent Bed Appeal.”
Do not be afraid of coming to Ashgate Hospice as you will get the best possible care with the aim of getting you back to your own home as soon as possible."
Phil Boulton, 66, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in November 2014. His story details the journey from early diagnosis to his stay in Ashgate Hospicecare. In November 2015, Phil was experiencing excruciating pain in his upper body and was immediately put on hormone therapy. He was also experiencing severe pain in his left knee which forced him to go to A&E. Phil was then prescribed painkillers and morphine due to the severity of his pain. After a routine blood test with the urologist, cancer deposits were identified on Phil’s last two vertebrae which was identified as the probable cause of all the pain he had been receiving.
Radiotherapy was scheduled for May, however, Phil’s leg was still in severe pain and his leg was extremely swollen. It was at this point, Phil was referred to Ashgate Hospicecare’s Lymphoedema unit and his story at the hospice began. Phil had attended appointments with the hospice’s Lymphoedema specialists in the latter stages of May, however realised soon after his pain relief wasn’t working and he couldn’t manage at home. He was then admitted to the hospice. “On admittance I found that the Hospice was a pleasant welcoming atmosphere where everyone knows your name and is much more relaxed than a hospital environment. It is a warm friendly environment where all the staff are eager to help and nothing is too much trouble.” After Phil’s admittance, his pain was stabilised and he was able to move around and sleep normally again. “It made me feel like I could manage my pain at home.” Phil also explained his experience of living inside the hospice and how his conception of hospices changed once he was admitted. “I was interested to note the reaction of people when I told them where I was, they all seemed to view the Hospice as “one foot in the grave” and probably I was as guilty as them.” “Do not be afraid of coming to Ashgate Hospice as you will get the best possible care with the aim of getting you back to your own home as soon as possible and ensuring you get the necessary assistance to be able to cope there. They will provide a caring co-ordinated program in a friendly environment.” “I would have no hesitation in coming back if necessary in the future and would choose Ashgate over the hospital. Now I am back at home I would like to thank all the staff at Ashgate, from the doctors to volunteers for making my stay as comfortable as possible and as short.” “I hope to be getting back to the golf course as soon as possible.”
"The constant care Laura got made such a difference to all the family."
Laura Nettleship from Staveley was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. Whilst receiving reconstruction treatment in 2012, she was told the devastating news that the cancer had spread to her liver. Despite the news, Laura went on to organise her wedding to her long term partner Matt. They married in December 2012.
Her father Alan says: “Laura picked up whilst organising the wedding and looked fantastic on the day. She was the last up dancing on the night.” As Laura’s health deteriorated, she was admitted to Ashgate Hospicecare where she spent her last few days. She died in July 2013, aged just 29. Recalling his experience of the hospice, Alan adds: “It was like going to a little hotel, nothing was too much trouble. Laura had a lovely room which had a patio with tables and chairs and her bed could be pushed outside if she wanted. The constant care Laura got made such a difference to all the family. “Laura didn’t have much of an appetite, but did enjoy ice pops which were always on hand. A bed was put in her room so Matt or her Mum Ann could stay overnight with her. Tea, coffee and sandwiches were always available whenever we needed them. “Laura was a Mummy, everything she did was centred around her two boys. When visiting their Mummy, the boys played football outside on the grass. No one batted an eyelid, whatever time we visited.” Since Laura’s death, her family and friends have been raising money for Ashgate Hospicecare. A Tribute Fund has been set up in Laura’s name into which all money raised or donated will go. Every penny will be used for the continuing care of patients and their families across North Derbyshire.
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"I’m glad I’ve had the support from the hospice"
Joanne Turley, 61, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. Having had a mastectomy and undergone surgery to remove the lymph nodes in her armpits, Joanne beat the cancer but unfortunately developed Lymphoedema as a result of the illness. Lymphoedema, a chronic condition caused by problems with the lymphatic system that results in swelling in the body's tissues, can often be a side effect resulting from operations to treat cancer. Joanne shares her story on developing the condition and how the team at Ashgate Hospicecare helped reduce her swelling.
Joanne says: “When you get diagnosed with cancer, you get given so much information that it’s impossible to register all of it. When I had my lymph nodes removed, my local hospital told me to limit any physical activity as I was at risk of developing Lymphoedema. But because I didn’t see a lot of people at the clinic wearing sleeves, personally it didn’t register with me that it could be a problem. I’m a keen gardener and I wanted to continue doing what I loved, so I didn’t stop the physical activity like I was supposed to. I should have been a lot more aware of the symptoms of Lymphoedema but I wasn’t paying attention.
“I was getting ready for bed one night after a day of gardening and suddenly noticed that my fingers and my right hand were completely swollen. That was the start of it. Things moved very quickly after that and I was seen by the Lymphoedema team at the hospital the following week. It’s only my right arm that’s affected so they got me some compression sleeves to help the swelling.
“When I first found out that I had Lymphoedema, I was cross with myself because I know I overdid it. Having had it happen, I stop now and think ‘I shouldn’t be lifting this’ which stops me from overdoing it. But once you’ve had cancer you’re at risk of Lymphoedema for the rest of your life. You won’t always get it straight away; I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 but didn’t develop Lymphoedema until 2013. But I’ve accepted that I have to live with it.
“When I moved from Salford to Chesterfield, I was referred to Ashgate Hospicecare’s Lymphoedema team. Everyone at the hospice is so great – it’s a lovely, friendly place. I love it. I don’t go to the hospice for end-of-life care but I’m not treated any differently to those that do. I’ve been coming for 18 months and with trial and error we’ve finally found a sleeve that is comfortable and thankfully the swelling of my arm has shrunk and shrunk.”
Although the swelling in Joanne’s right arm has significantly decreased since visiting the hospice, Joanne has had to make several adjustments as a result of the condition.
“I find it difficult to find clothes that fit and are comfortable. I want to wear clothes that cover my sleeve, because people stare sometimes. I just ignore it, but for some people it could be quite offensive. It’s like if you choose not to wear a wig when you’ve had chemotherapy and you wear a headscarf instead. You suddenly become aware that everybody’s looking at you. So I like to wear clothes that cover my sleeve but even that can be a problem. The other day I tried on a really nice top in Marks and Spencer but the sleeve wasn’t big enough, and my arm is a lot smaller now than it was before! You find yourself going for bigger sizes, but then it just looks wrong.
“I automatically carry my bag on my right shoulder too, so when I carry it on my left it just doesn’t feel right. It’s like if you’re right handed and you suddenly have to start using your left hand – it off balances you. Its silly things like that that you don’t realise have a big impact. Or I’ll go to grab something that might be heavy and I have to remind myself ‘Hold on, I can’t lift that. I’ve got to get somebody to help me.’ It’s not good. But I’m glad I’ve had the support from the hospice to help me find a sleeve that fits properly and works for me.”
"I love going to my appointments as we have a good laugh and I always come out feeling positive"
Louise Mallender, 35, was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2013. Having undergone chemotherapy and a lumpectomy, Louise found out that she had the BRCA1 gene, a gene that would increase her risk of developing breast cancer in the future. It was then that Louise developed Lymphoedema, a condition that can often occur after operations to treat cancer that result in swelling of the body’s tissues.
Louise says, “When I found out that I had the BRCA1 gene, I had a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery. Getting breast cancer in the first place was a complete shock and totally out of the blue. Not only that, my hand and arm started swelling which I soon found out was Lymphoedema. I know it sounds silly after everything I had been through, but I was so sad that I couldn’t wear my wedding rings anymore because they wouldn’t fit on my finger. My local hospital referred me to Ashgate Hospicecare’s Lymphoedema team and they were fantastic. For around a year they gave me advice and showed me different techniques to help reduce the swelling. My hand and arm finally reduced to a level where I could put my rings back on and I felt like me again. I felt normal again.
“Unfortunately the caner returned 6 months later and so the journey started all over again. There was more chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a further operation to remove my ovaries. I went back to Ashgate and the team continued to give me fantastic advice and support. I love going to my appointments as we have a good laugh and I always come out feeling positive.
“I am now free of cancer again and I’m ready to get my life back on track.”
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We run a 21-bed inpatient unit, 16-place day hospice and a range of therapy and support services on site.
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"Margaret was given the greatest care possible from everyone during her time there, so I want to give something back to show my appreciation.”
John Thompson from Clay Cross has been a well-loved volunteer at Ashgate Hospicecare since May 2014. He works within a small team who take care of the hospice’s picturesque gardens 365 days a year – come rain or shine. John shares his experience of Ashgate and why he decided to volunteer for the hospice."
John says, “My wife Margaret spent the last five weeks of her life at Ashgate Hospice. She had bowel cancer. Sadly, she died at the hospice at the age of 66 on 9th November 2011 and I still miss her every day.” Margaret was admitted to the hospice’s Inpatient Unit to help manage her symptoms and to keep her pain under control. To this day, John is still grateful for the level of care Margaret received during her time on the ward. “Four years later, I still remember the care and kindness given by the doctors and nurses. It was exemplary. Other members of staff and the volunteers on the ward were very considerate as well. She enjoyed a tipple every so often and it was never a problem – they would get her whatever she wanted. “I have been a gardening volunteer for over a year now and it’s my way of saying thank you to the hospice. Margaret was given the greatest care possible from everyone during her time there, so I want to give something back to show my appreciation.” To pay tribute to his wife, John has dedicated a rose and plaque to Margaret in the hospice’s garden that he can visit when he’s working. John says, “Margaret used to collect teddy bears – she loved them! So of course the plaque had to have a teddy bear on it! The memorial is very special to me and I’m lucky that I get to see it every time I’m out volunteering in the garden.”
“It’s just a fantastic service. I can’t praise Ashgate enough. It’s not a service – it’s a friendship.”
Jenny Hawkins, aged 57 from North Wingfield, attends Ashgate Hospicecare’s Day Hospice once a week. She is also seen by Ashgate’s nurses for swollen legs and feet caused by lymphodema. Jenny shares her journey with lymphoedema and the care provided by Ashgate Hospicecare nurses to help her with the condition.
“I contracted a very rare lung disease which there’s no cure for and they don’t know the cause, so they thought that the hospice would be a good place to get me out, be in company but at the same time have fantastic care. I have deteriorated and now it has got to the stage of palliative care.
“In this latter 6 months or so, I’ve really suffered with oedema. I tried taking water tablets, but nothing worked. I was getting very severe tightening of the legs and the swelling was horrible. My legs expanded - doubling near enough. My feet doubled in size as well. I felt as if they were going to explode they got that tight that to even put my feet on the floor to transfer from chair to wheelchair was agony.
“I had been told I was unsuitable for compression stockings in the past to help managed the swelling. However I was re-tested at Ashgate and thankfully I was in the area for compression stockings.
“I was elated when I received the news and within ten minutes of them doing the tests, they disappeared and came back with a pair of stockings, got them on, made a prescription and measured my legs for the made to measure stockings. The following week they were delivered and I have them now made to measure for my legs and they’re brilliant there no discomfort with them.
“It’s been amazing. The relief of having the compression stockings on and the nurses putting them on for me they’ve made sure I’ve got the proper moisturisation for my legs, for my feet; every part of care that lymphoedema can do has been dealt with here at Ashgate and I honestly can’t praise them enough.
“Before treatment, cosmetically, I felt awful. I didn’t want people to see the state of my legs so the loose fitting trousers just covered them, but now hopefully the weathers changing now were getting to the source of this ill be back in my skirts soon.
“When I go out now, I can get shoes back on I don’t feel silly going shopping in slippers and it’s given me some life back that I thought I’d lost. I felt awful about wearing slippers all the time. I’m not old, but it made me feel very old so it’s nice to be able to get shoes on again. For my husband to say “I’ll get your shoes” those words make a big difference.
“My right leg is more or less back to normal just through compression and the left leg has gone down a good third so it is fantastic. I’m back in the same shoes again now too. I thought id have to go up a size just to get that bit of extra room. Fortunately I didn’t buy any bigger sizes because it would have been a waste of money and I can get back in my nice ones.”
Jenny also talks about the overall care she has received at the Day Hospice.
“Coming to the Day Hospice my husband and daughter get a break and I’ve made lovely friends. I can chat, I can craft, I can play bingo; whatever activities are going and I’ve got something to have a conversation about when I get home. I’d be otherwise in the four walls and I’ve got nothing to talk about, but when I go home from the Day Hospice I tell them what I’ve done, who I’ve been talking to, the conversations we’ve had if we’ve had a laugh and a joke and it even brightens my husband and daughter as they know I’m well cared for whilst I’m here.
“It’s just a fantastic service. I can’t praise Ashgate enough. It’s not a service – it’s a friendship.”