When you hear the word ‘hospice’ for the first time, you feel numb. You immediately think you’re going to die. But that soon changes once you meet the team at St Elizabeth Hospice. They’re here to support you to live your life to the full 365 days a year, seven days a week.

I heard that word ‘hospice’ for the first time four and a half years ago.

It was just before Christmas that we heard the devastating news I had a tumour lodged in my vertebrae just beneath my neck.

It came as a complete shock I needed an urgent operation in two days’ time.  I spent all of Christmas in hospital and on Boxing Day I began radiotherapy.

The next couple of months were awful.  I spent a lot of time in hospital suffering the horrible side-effects of radiotherapy.  Just as I was about to begin a new treatment I was told that I needed to attend the hospice. I heard the word hospice and panicked, I had always thought the hospice was a place you went to die.

I went along for an appointment with Dr Bengtson. I was very nervous and didn’t know what to expect. When I got there I realised how serious my condition was which was pretty scary. But I also began to understand that the hospice would look after not just my illness but care for both me and my wife, Tricia.

I told Dr Bengtson that since I was diagnosed, my whole life had been on hold. I was in constant pain and really struggling. I tried some therapies at the hospice: reflexology, physiotherapy and mindfulness, amongst other things.

The relief I feel is wonderful. With my pain under control, I can focus on living my life and doing the things I want to do.

Four and a half years on and the hospice is still here for me. It means so much to have the space and time to talk and be listened to. I can unload anything that is worrying me and not always burden Tricia.

As for that word ‘Hospice’ – I know what it means now. It isn’t something to fear, but it is somewhere you can get practical help and support to help you focus on living.

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